Big Animal Love

What’s making us happy this week.

A safari, right here stateside. Here are our favorite places to see the big old fuzz balls.

A 5,000-pound baby needs a bath. You might be surprised how relaxing it can be to give an elephant a bath. You might be even more surprised to hear that you can do such a thing in Monterey County. Just head to the Vision Quest Ranch, about an hour from Santa Cruz and 90 miles from Santa Clara. Wild Things, aka The Monterey Zoo, is a safe house for exotic animals once used in the entertainment industry. You can take a tour, go on a photo safari, or bathe an African elephant as part of the two-hour pachyderm package.

Photo by Jacquelin Siegel via Flickr
Photo by Jacquelin Siegel via Flickr

Swimming elephants. This elephant experience by the ocean is not of the pachyderm variety but of the phocid family: the 1,300- to 5,000-pound elephant seals. About 10,000 linger at Año Nuevo State Park in Santa Cruz County year-round. The most exciting time is now when many return to Año Nuevo to breed and raise young (December ’til March)

Photo by Brian Washburn via Flickr
Photo by Brian Washburn via Flickr

A 14-foot long reptile. The truly prehistoric is within the Florida swamps. Just watch what happens when a chicken is tossed in the water by the guys at Everglades Alligator Farm. So predictable. Many dozens of America’s largest reptile, the ‘gator, surface for the snack. The Farm will buzz you around the waters in an airboat. Don’t capsize. Plus, there are alligator and snake shows in this friendly attraction in Homestead, an hour from Miami Beach.

Photo by Maju Rezende via Flickr
Photo by Maju Rezende via Flickr

At the bison lab. What are bison doing in a physics lab? Ask the particle physicists at Fermilab, a science facility surrounded by 6,800 acres 40 miles west of Chicago. The first director brought a bison in 1969 to pay respect to the Lincolnian heritage of the location. The idea stuck. Doors are open to visitors, but a double fence protects them from the herd; as Fermilab states it, “Like physicists, [bison] have been described as cantankerous … They can reach a weight of 2,500 pounds—give or take—and can run at a speed of 30 miles an hour, usually when in an ill humor …” We do hope they named one Higgs Bison. There’s also an art gallery that’s in the physics lab.

Photo by Tobin via Flickr
Photo by Tobin via Flickr

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