Pet Kangaroos And Wolves At The Coolest Rescue You've Never Heard Of
A mere hour or so's drive north of Los Angeles, there's a nonprofit animal rescue where you can schedule a tour and meet and pet several animals. You can take a wolf for a walk, play with a baboon and lounge with a kangaroo. You'll also learn quite a bit.
Animal Tracks is located just outside of Acton. On a day with average traffic, you should be able to reach it in under an hour from central Los Angeles. It's a scenic drive full of mountains and winding roads, north of the Angeles National Forest. Once you arrive for your tour, you should expect to meet several enthusiastic animals, but none so enthused as the humans who care for them.
When we arrived, we saw a group of horses near the driveway who were quick to greet us. We were soon met by Christina Guerrero and her daughter. Guerrero had just finished a tour with another group, one of whom was saying it was the best hidden gem in the region. My biggest concern was, who can I pet? It turns out: lots of animals.
Animal Tracks, which sits on a large, hilly property surrounded by mountain views, takes care of many animals of all sorts—several of which require special care. Guerrero introduced us to Luke, a rescued squirrel monkey who was a former resident of the Playboy Mansion, but who had lost part of his hand to another monkey. We then met a Monzo, a serval (an African wild cat) who is normally quite active, but who on this particular day was recovering from a surgery to repair a blocked intestine. We met a little micropig, a small alligator, a few emus (you can't pet the emus because they will bite your fingers), a couple of wolf hybrids and a kangaroo. Many of these animals had once been misunderstood pets, but are now being properly taken care of at Animal Tracks. While hybrid wolves don't make good pets and can't play with the other dogs, we were able to safely pet and play with them with supervision.
Guerrero soon introduced us to Stacy Gunderson who operates Animal Tracks with her family. Gunderson arrives with a baboon, Chrissy, on a leash. Just a few minutes with Gunderson, and you'll see how much she loves each animal at the rescue. She also knows quite a bit about them. She explains that isn't so much animals that don't know how to behave around people, but vice versa. She starts by explaining how Chrissy, a female baboon, will submit to males she's interested in—including human ones—by turning her backside to them. When she is interested in being affectionate, she might come up to you. You can show her you care for her by acting like you're picking bugs off her and smacking your lips. She might even hug you. Chrissy accompanies us for much of the tour, at one point pausing to use a slide and a swing like a human child. She makes certain noises that Gunderson explains are "happy noises" when she gets to play on the slide.
One of Gunderson's own human children—who Gunderson tells us are never allowed to be alone with the animals but who are very much a part of Track's mission—follows us quietly for a bit. She is cradling a tiny baby bunny in the palm of her hand. Gunderson tells us one of their dogs found the abandoned bunnies, and they've become another group of animals the rescue is caring for.
Gunderson also takes us to visit with some kangaroos, introduces us to a shy fox and talkative kookaburra. We also met two opossums. While these might seem more like native animals that would typically live on their own in the wild, these particular opossums had previously been fed by humans and had learned to rely on them for food. Smokey the Fox lives at Animal Tracks for similar reasons.
When we rejoin with Guerrero, we visit the reptile room where we see a few turtles, a snake and a big frog. Guerrero also shows us several plastic containers, where she says dozens of turtles are serenely hibernating.
In addition to safely petting several animals and learning a ton about them by the people who care for and love them, you'll also have a few unique opportunities. Separate from the tour, you can sign up to either take Chrissy or one of the wolf hybrids for a walk, or you can fingerpaint with primates. The fingerpainting program launches this summer. The money from the tours and programs will, in turn, go back to caring for and rescuing animals.
The tours generally last about two hours. You'll receive the exact address once you make a reservation. Don't go to the address Google suggests as that's a P.O. Box, but know that it's about ten minutes by car away from that address. We advise wearing pants and closed-toe shoes.
Animal Tracks. (661) 268-1314. $25/person for the 2-hour tour; $20/adult; $10 kids to walk a baboon or wolf hybrid; $25/person for Painting with Primates, which includes your artwork.