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Wild Tucson

Your Guide to Animal Attractions in and Around Tucson.
By Stacey Gregory

The heart of the desert beats with compassion and wonder, where humans and animals share a unique bond. From pig sanctuaries to wildlife rescues, the extraordinary relationship between humans and animals is on display. Come discover the wild side of Tucson, and let compassion guide your journey.

sky island falconry experience

Sky Island Falconry Experience

Experience the thrill of falconry amidst the stunning landscapes of Tucson with Sky Island Falconry Experience. This US Fish and Wildlife Service-licensed falconry school offers hands-on adventures in the ancient art of falconry at White Stallion Ranch, Tanque Verde Ranch, and other area locations.

Fan-favorite experiences include the Hawk Walk, offering the unique opportunity to get up close to Harris’s hawks that are native to Arizona. A falconer leads a fireside chat sharing details about the birds of prey and answering questions before taking the group to see the hawks in action, demonstrating their hunting prowess. This outdoor expedition requires hiking in their natural desert habitat and is the most natural among the backdrop of mountains and cacti. 

For those who don’t want to venture outside, stationary programs provide up-close-and-personal experiences with the birds. These can include falcons, an eastern screech owl, a barn owl, and a Eurasian eagle owl, the second-largest owl in the world. The Triple Threat Raptor Experience features three birds of prey—hawks, falcons, and owls—and is a favorite of the falconers. All of the experiences let you interact hands-on, including calling one of these magnificent creatures to a glove.

Sky Island Falconry Experience promises an unforgettable journey into the world of falconry. Discover their incredible programs, experience the beauty of these raptors, and be captivated by the magic of flight. //

 Tucson Wildlife Center

Tucson Wildlife Center

Tucson, Arizona, is home to the only wildlife rescue hospital in all of Southern Arizona. Tucson Wildlife Center was established in 1998 as a vital wildlife rescue center dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured, orphaned, and sick wildlife, including javelina, birds of prey, and coyotes.

The center is licensed through Arizona

Game & Fish Department. It operates with a team of dedicated volunteers, a small number of salaried employees, and about 10 volunteer veterinarians who contribute their expertise several times a week. 

“We take in around 5,000 animals a year here at no cost to the public,” said Development Director Hubert Parker. “The summer is our busiest time of year with many infants, like baby doves, quail, owls, and hawks. We get grown-ups too, including javelina, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and bobcats.”

With a comprehensive facility spanning 15 acres, Tucson Wildlife Center is equipped to handle various medical procedures, from blood work to X-rays to surgeries, and includes specialized enclosures that allow raptors like owls and hawks to fly silently and catch their own food. Around 80% of the savable animals in their care are rehabilitated and successfully released back into their natural habitats.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Tucson Wildlife Center does not receive government funding and relies heavily on donations to answer more than 20,000 phone calls annualy. The center plays a crucial role in the community, rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife while offering education and support to those who encounter injured or orphaned animals at a cost of $2,000 daily.

You can report an injured or orphaned animal by calling the center at 520-290-9453. Donations and volunteers are vital in enabling Tucson Wildlife Center to continue its lifesaving work and provide care for the diverse wildlife in need. 

Ironwood Pig Sanctuary

Tucked away outside of Marana, Arizona, is the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. This sanctuary on the outskirts of Tucson is dedicated to rescuing and providing a permanent home for pot-bellied pigs. Since its establishment in November 2000, the sanctuary has taken in more than 1,700 pigs, including 300 from failed sanctuaries in Arizona. As the largest pot-bellied pig sanctuary in the state and one of the largest in the United States, Ironwood offers a safe and nurturing environment for these abandoned, abused, neglected, or unwanted pigs.
The sanctuary brings awareness to the rescue through guided tours (available by appointment only). More than 30 different fields and yards can house anywhere from one to 45 pigs, and each field contains shade ramadas, kiddy wading pools, wallows, and automatic waterers. During the tour, a guide shares their processes, including the new arrival intake and the different kinds of herds based on physical ability, age, and

ironwood pig sanctuary

emotional needs. There’s even a special-needs field, providing a safe, loving environment for pigs with physical or emotional disabilities, including blindness, epilepsy, and one big girl scared of her own shadow. 

You can support the sanctuary by shopping at their store and making tax-deductible contributions to enable the sanctuary to purchase food, make repairs, and provide medical care for their 660+ pot-bellied pigs. You can also become a sponsor and receive periodic pictures and updates about your pig and have the opportunity to spend time with them during your visits. Should you fall in love with one, you just might be able to adopt a pot-bellied pig for your very own. //

el jefe cat cafe
el jefe cat cafe

El Jefe Cat Cafe

You’ll have a purrfectly delightful experience at El Jefe Cat Café. Tucson’s only cat lounge and café caters to rescued kitties and cat enthusiasts of all kinds. At any given time, about 35 adoptable cats and kittens eagerly await your cuddles, pets, and playtime. They’re on a mission to find their forever homes while giving you their love and attention. 

The three-story lounge is complemented by a cat-themed boutique and café, serving delicious beverages to fuel your feline adventures, right next door. From aromatic coffee and lattes to refreshing Italian sodas, there’s something for every taste. The café is open daily, but make sure to secure your spot for the popular lounge hour experience by making an online reservation in advance. Visitors check in and grab some tasty drinks and cat treats (the secret to unlocking a truly paw-some time) from the café before heading next door to the lounge. As soon as you enter, you’ll see cats of every breed and color, with the first two floors bustling with adult cats. For an extra dose of cuteness, venture up to the third floor dedicated to adorable kittens.

El Jefe Cat Café also plans events. You can strike a pose alongside the resident feline yogis at cat yoga or cozy up on the couches with cats on movie night.  

The whole family can join a round of Cat Bingo every Sunday at 6 p.m. And for those who love a challenge, their Jeopardy-style trivia nights every other Friday will test your knowledge of all things feline. (Make sure to make reservations early, these events sell out.) Should you want the place to yourself, you can host a private party for up to 20 people. 

Adoptions are the heart of El Jefe Cat Café’s mission through their partnership with Finding My Forever Home Rescue. Adoption applications are online, and the adoption donation covers all necessary medical care, from spaying and neutering to microchipping and vaccinations. By adopting a cat, you’re not only gaining a furry companion but also supporting a great cause. It’s a win-win situation for both you and the feline community! 

Arizona-Sonora  Desert Museum

Spread across an impressive 98 acres is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, offering an extraordinary fusion experience that combines a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium all in one captivating destination. The 21 interpreted acres with two miles of walking paths lead you through diverse desert habitats that showcase the incredible biodiversity of this arid region, including 242 fascinating animal species in one place.

The Mountain Woodland is a habitat based on Mexican Pine-Oak Woodland, where you can see a mountain lion, Mexican grey wolves, a black bear, and mule deer. The rustic naturalistic grotto setting of the Cat Canyon is home to bobcats, a grey fox, and an ocelot.

Take a half-mile-long journey along the Desert Loop Trail, and you’ll encounter large enclosures featuring stainless-steel netting so you can observe animals like javelinas and coyotes in their natural habitats. The hummingbird aviary is a sight to behold, with

Arizona-Sonora  Desert Museum

up to eight species of these mesmerizing creatures. In the shady respite of the Riparian Corridor are river otters, beavers, Bighorn sheep, aquatic invertebrates, and desert fish. Plus, you can see the creepy crawlers of the desert, from tarantulas and scorpions, to the birds and burrowers, including Gila monsters and pack rats. 
The desert musuem also features multiple botanical gardens, including the Deset Garden, Agave Garden, Cactus Garden, Pollinator Garden, and the People and Plants Garden. You can also explore  two art galleries, the Art Institute, Ocotillo Café, Ironwood Terraces food court, 
Phoebe’s Coffee Bar, and two gift shops. 

Hoofsnhorns Farm Sanctuary

Hoofsnhorns Farm Sanctuary

Hoofsnhorns Farm Sanctuary provides a warm and loving home to unwanted goats, sheep, cows, pigs, horses, donkeys, and poultry, plus a llama and an alpaca. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit offers immersive two-hour guided tours through advanced appointment only. 
During the tour, you could meet Austin, a 12-year-old premature longhorn steer who has been here since he was just a few hours old, and Monkey, a Lamancha goat with a distinctive earless look, who often accompanies The University of Arizona

veterinary students and visitors to ensure they stay out of trouble. Or Charles, a 24-year-old blue-and-gold macaw who delights visitors with his dancing, talking, and friendly gestures.You are encouraged to bring treats, such as baby carrots, that can be shared among the animals. They rely on the generosity of donors, and those who tour are encouraged to donate to support the farm. And don’t forget to shop at the farm store to purchase T-shirts, calendars, and more, with all proceeds going toward the animals’ care.The sanctuary is the result of a lifetime of training and experience brought to fruition by a dedicated mother-daughter team. With backgrounds in medical, veterinary, legal, and retail management, Shelby and Sidney have been caring for animals of all kinds for decades. //

Sunny Haven Farm Animal Sanctuary

Tucked away in midtown Tucson is Sunny Haven farm animal Sanctuary, a safe haven for farm animals rescued from the farming industry. The red-and-white barn-style enclosures house friendly chickens and roosters, ducks, a herd of sheep, and a mother goat and her two kids. 

Far from farm life, these lucky animals now live a luxurious life in the city. The air-conditioned enclosures include a pond for the ducks and dining and entertainment areas with music playing to keep them happy and safe from wild intruders. A fenced-in hillside provides a safe place for the sheep and goats to run and play.

The Sanctuary is a labor of love by psychotherapist Elizabeth Matthews. Her husband and dedicated volunteers help run the Sanctuary, providing opportunities for the community and schools to visit and learn about farm animals. She hopes to teach kids how to be kind to animals from a young age to help them mature into kinder adults. 

Sunny Haven Farm Animal Sanctuary

“We have mothers in our Sanctuary like our momma dairy goat. Goats can never raise their children because they are taken soon after birth for their milk,” said Matthews. “She’s raising her babies for the first time, her twins Jack and Jill, and they are getting old happily together.” 

The Sanctuary’s animals are ambassadors for their species. Children and adults can spend time with the residents and learn about the animals, habitats, and care. Educational tours and visits are available by appointment only. Locals are welcome to volunteer to help care for these animals, and donations are welcome to the  501(c)(3) charity. 

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