Who doesn’t love animals? For more than 25 years, Wildlife West Nature Park has been part of the fabric of the East Mountain community. It is home to more than 20 native species of New Mexico wildlife, and to a toe-tapping summer series of Chuckwagon Supper Shows. Founded by Roger Alink in the 1990s, he remains the driving force behind the park and visitors will readily recognize him as the guy telling jokes (puns really) because Alink loves to make people think and smile.

The 122-acre park is unique for a number of reasons, including the fact that its residents are made up entirely of animals that cannot be released back into the wild. Some have been in accidents and others were rescued from inhumane situations, but all are now provided with a forever home filled with enrichments, caring keepers, and love from a network of volunteers specially trained to meet the animals’ needs.

Upon entering the park, you’re littles will be immediately drawn to the Kids Imagination Garden, a climbable collection of colorful tractors, tires, and tiny buildings that kids can’t resist. Further along the trail you’ll encounter the aviary with peregrine falcon, owl, and more. Continue on the loop trail to meet the big cats (mountain lion), bear, deer, elk, fox, and more. The beauty of Wildlife West is that you can safely get up close, all the habitats have been designed in ways that give animals and humans a chance to connect and relate to one and other.

FUN FACT: When you go, you’ll be at the only zoo in the country built entirely by youth. Working with the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corp program, Alink has provided the real-life training venue and mentorship to help decades of teens and young adults gain hands-on construction skills building the park’s amphitheater, Old West town, Kids Imagination Garden, wildlife habits, educational trails, tire wall entrance, and more.

EXPERIENCE IT: Summer hours are 10:00am-6:00pm, seven days a week. Admission is just $9/adult, discounts for seniors and students, and under 5 are free. Summer is an ideal time to visit because you can add an evening of delicious barbeque and entertainment to your experience. The Chuckwagon Supper Shows are held on select Saturday evenings all summer (advance reservation and fee required) and include dinner, live country/folk music, and an educational visit with a falcon. The park and Chuckwagon are open rain or shine.