On our cross-country road trip we stumbled upon the nonprofit Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center in Queen Wilhemena State Park in Mena, Arkansas.
In its mission to rehab and provide education about native animals, they house a mountain lion, poisonous snakes, birds of prey, deer, a coyote, wolf, alligator and numerous other small mammals. The oftentimes ill or maimed animals are given to them by the Game & Fish department or just regular people who’ve come across them.
Run by Tom Young (above), an ornithologist and master falconer, they are in the process of renovating their land and building new pens for the animals, but in its current state, it’s ad hoc and very personal. Visitors can now experience a one-of-a-kind tour of the grounds (ours with the very affable and knowledgeable Wendell Thomas, below), even getting to enter the mountain lion’s cage and handle the snakes.
Once they are more established and turn it into a full-fledged animal zoo (which is what they intend), it’s certain it’ll be more formal and they’ll be less access and personal attention.
So now is the time to go if you ever find yourself in western Arkansas.
To see more of discarted’s photos of the center, go here.