Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wildlife Safari!

Okay - time for a full-fledged entry! :-)

As new residents of Omaha, Brad and I have been exploring all of the local attractions. I mentioned our love for the Henry Doorly Zoo before - and our many visits so far this summer. Last Saturday we took a trip out to a lesser known extension of the zoo called Lee Simmons Wildlife Park.

Review: AWESOME.

The park is out on Interstate 80 and it's a safari style preserve that visitors drive and hike through. Its purpose is to showcase animals native to the plains of Nebraska. We joked the whole time that it felt like Jurassic Park because it had cool automatic gates into huge areas where the animals roam free. They're pretty used to people by now, so we often had to slow down because they were in the road investigating things. Only a select few were behind fences - wolves and black bears being obvious candidates - but those were in a separate section to hike around because their habitats were really large and melded into the surrounding swamp and fields. We got some very up-close views of different things, so I'll share some pics.

Here are the elk that start the tour. I don't think I'd ever actually seen an elk before and both of us were just in love with them. They have such complex antlers! There was a big herd hiding in the grass and all we could see was a field of antlers.

The park also had a lot of neat birds. The sandhill cranes were all about stopping traffic, so we got several really close pictures.

The screech owl below is one that was on the hiking trail in a large habitat. This is one of the pictures Brad took - and my favorite from the excursion. For his size, this guy's shrieking abilities are a wonder!

Up near the entrance the park had a big aviary with bald eagles, a very Poe-ish raven, and even a pair of bobcats. The whole thing was really nice and spacious. I know that we're going to be return visitors for sure!