Wild Animal Sanctuary holds more meetings about its new refuge in Colo. | TheFencePost.com

Wild Animal Sanctuary holds more meetings about its new refuge in Colo.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo., hosted two meetings in Springfield, Colo., on Oct. 12 and 13. The sanctuary's new property, the Refuge, is in Baca and Las Animas counties on a 9,004-acre ranch. The Refuge is slated to be home to lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other rescued animals.

Kent Drotar, public relations director for the sanctuary, said many of the concerns originally posed during an earlier Southern Colorado Livestock Association meeting were echoed and there were people present both in support of the facility and in opposition.

The Saturday meeting, Drotar said, was "more open-minded with only one or two people there that have allied themselves with Rep. (Kimmi) Lewis." Drotar said he was able to offer information regarding the level of oversight the sanctuary operates under and their long history, 38 years, with no escapes.

Rep. Kimmi Lewis, a rancher from Kim, Colo., has been staunchly opposed to the refuge, citing the proximity to cattle ranches and the area's long history and dependence on cattle ranching.

Drotar said he was also able to assure attendees that the sanctuary would support the community, as he said they have in Keenesburg, Colo. He said over the years in their Weld County location, they have made various donations to 12 entities including the school district, chamber of commerce, local fire departments, the local fair and rodeo, and various events in the community. He said, to date, $5,000 donations have been made to each of the volunteer fire departments in Kim, Pritchett and Springfield.

Drotar originally said two lions rescued from Korea, after they attacked their handler, would now be housed in Keenesburg rather than at the Refuge.

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Rae Ann Waggoner, Kim, Colo., attended both meetings. Waggoner's in-law's ranch shares a fence with the refuge.

She said Drotar explained plans to fence the enclosures with telephone poles, spaced 20-feet apart with a high tensile woven wire. Her immediate concern, she said, is the rocky terrain, the tumbleweeds that catch on fences, causing snow to drift along fence lines, allowing fence damage and potential escape.

Another concern brought forth was the road conditions that could keep feed deliveries from reaching the facility in inclimate weather. Waggoner said the concerns were all met with assurance that the challenges could be handled by the staff.

"He's not willing to listen to the people who have lived on this land for generations," Waggoner said. "They know their land, they know their climate, and he's not willing to open his mind to what these people have to say." ❖