Catoctin Wildlife Preserve is a 50-acre, privately-owned zoo located on Thurmont, Maryland off Route 15 on the way to Gettysburg. This small animal park contains a unique collection of over 600 animals, some rather rare, representing most of the continents. There are colorful birds, big cats, entertaining primates, funny farm animals, slithering reptiles and lumbering bison. Animal encounters, camel rides, a Japanese koi pond, the wildlife safari ride, and petting-feeding areas give visitors ample opportunities to interact directly with the animals. You’ll need a minimum of two hours to explore the zoo with a basic admission ticket, and longer if you opt for an add-on activity. Be sure to check the website for the seasonal schedule for the zoo itself and extra activities before you go. It’s a treat for the whole family!
Here’s my video to get you started:
The Catoctin Wildlife Preserve is organized, for the most part, by continent, as shown on the map. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Large water features broaden the variety of habitats for fish, reptiles, amphibians, and water birds. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see.
If you’re a bird lover like me, you’ll enjoy the watching the brightly colored macaws at their outdoor post. It’s fun to watch them interact, showing emotions ranging from affection to jealousy, just like little kids.
You’ll also see more common birds, like swans and peacocks, too.
Visitors can enter the Petting-Feeding pens, and hang out with sheep, alpacas, pigs, goats, and more. It’s a delight to get up close and personal with these adorable and funny animals.
You’ll also get to see a nice selection of reptiles and amphibians, like turtles, iguanas, and snakes.
Animals made famous by the cartoon movie Madagascar are a delight to find, like the lemurs and the “villain” fossa.
The zoo features several big cats, including the Amur leopard, Eurasian Lynx, and White Bengal Tiger. Despite their ferocity, they are deceptively cute as they purr, roll around, show their bellies and scratch their ears like harmless house cats.
We found the safari ride to be the most enjoyable part of our visit. From an open army troop carrier, you’ll take 45 minute ride through 25 acres of untamed land were you’ll get to meet over 100 animals, like camels, bison, donkeys, sheep, deer, antelope, ostriches and emus. The carrier will make several stops, allowing you to feed the animals special food the zoo provides.
There’s a little bit of an “ick” factor when the animals approach you with their long, slobbering tongues eager to snatch the food out of your hands. Most people who aren’t experience with feeding large animals recoil at first, but it quickly turns into a total giggle-fest for both adults and kids. It’s a truly enjoyable experience.
The ride is rather bumpy and rickety, and times are limited. There is an additional add-on charge to take this ride. Be sure to check the website for hours, prices and restrictions.
The zoo has snack stands, but there are no restaurants or cafes. Guests can bring in their own food and eat at the picnic areas. Note that there are a number of restaurants within a few miles of the zoo as an alternative.
There’s a very nice gift shop where you enter and purchase tickets. The friendly staff will give you information on the optional add-on experiences. Ask about purchasing a membership and the benefits that go with it.