Friday, July 15, 2011

Wild Thing’s Eco-Adventure

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” We are not in Oz, but in Dade City on Pasco County’s east side. The yellow brick road leads to Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo. It’s a path winding under a magnificent tree canopy and though a spacious garden on the Stearns’ property. A two mile trolley ride from the gift shop on Meridian Avenue begins your adventure.

Kathy Stearns is your host and she has developed an ecotour that allows hands-on encounters with many of the zoo’s 170 residents. That path winds past various types of monkeys, black bears, tiger and lions. The tour consists of explanations of their various habits and information about their behaviors in the wild. Many of the animals on the property have been rescued or recovered from people who could no longer care for them. Kathy has developed a close bond with each of her residents and it amazing how they respond to her and her staff.

The most popular part of the tour is the one-on-one encounters with some of the zoo’s infant animals. Following the guided tour, you can arrange to have s sit down session with tiger cubs Rajah or Ruari, the shy little foxes, Tippy Cooper and Billy Blue, pet the Roe Deer fawn Buckwheat, or pose for photos with the ever rambunctious snow monkey, JaJay.

One of the newest encounters available is swimming with the tiger cubs.

“This is the only place I know in the world where you can actually get in the water and swim with tigers,” said Kathy. Another idea being developed is opening up the property to tours and events in the vast natural botanical garden. There is room for social events including weddings with tours of the animals as an additional amenity.

Photos of your encounter are available upon return to the gift store. Dade City’s Wild Things is located at Meridian Avenue & 17th Street, 37245 Meridian Avenue, Dade City, FL, 352-567-WILD (9453). Their website is