via Ken Worland/Flickr
St. Louis is home to many organizations dedicated to the care, rehabilitation, and preservation of wildlife—and not just the cute and cuddly critters. Here’s where you can find predators, slithering insects, and truly wild animals.
TreeHouse Wildlife Center
Learn about wild animals and birds of prey at the TreeHouse Wildlife Center, a nonprofit dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. Kids can meet Cyclops, the red-tailed hawk; and Sandy, the axolotl (sometimes called a walking fish). You can visit the facility for free or schedule a guided tour or educational program for your group for a fee. TreeHouse is celebrating Eagle Days every weekend through February. Open every day 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Free. 23956 Green Acres. (Dow, Illinois).
World Bird Sanctuary
Get up close with Patriot the Bald Eagle, Dorothy the Condor, and other fierce birds of prey at the nonprofit World Bird Sanctuary. Families can wander the 300-acre facility tucked into the woods near Lone Elk Park and the Chubb Trail for free. Keeper chats are held every Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. Check their calendar for more events, like hikes, concerts, and bird banding demos. Open every day 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Free. 125 Bald Eagle Ridge.
Endangered Wolf Center
Kids can learn about the often misunderstood animal at the Endangered Wolf Center, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates wolves and other wild canids. Unlike a zoo, the animals here live in large enclosures and have limited contact with humans. Sneak a peek at Rocky, a blind Mexican wolf and his dedicated mate, Cedar. Tours are offered every Friday–Sunday and start at $15 per adult and $12 per child. They also offer programs and educational outings for groups and summer camps. Open with RSVP only. 6750 Tyson Valley.
Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center
Learn about the nature in your backyard, then hike a paved trail and look for signs of wildlife at Powder Valley. The museum is designed for children and has many hands-on displays, a huge bird-watching area, and a river aquarium. Make sure you stop and say hello to Peanut, a red-eared slider who was once trapped in a plastic 6-pack ring and who’s now a spokes-turtle for anti-littering. Building open Tuesday–Saturday 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Park grounds open every day from 8 a.m. to dusk. Free. 11715 Cragwold.
Lone Elk Park
Take the kids on a drive through Lone Elk Park to see majestic elk and massive bison roaming free on 546-acres of wooded park land. Feel free to bring a camera and a picnic lunch, but leave your dog at home. You can hike on the elk side of the park, but there’s no exiting your car in the bison area—safety first. Open 8 a.m. to an hour past sunset. Free. 1 Lone Elk Park.
If your kid loves bugs, then look no further than the Butterfly House. From creepy crawly spiders and giant cockroaches to beautiful butterflies, there’s an insect here for everyone. Make sure you stop by the hatchery to watch new butterflies emerge from their chrysalises, or let your kids release butterflies into the conservatory for an extra “adoption” fee. Right now is the best time to visit. It’s Morpho Mardi Gras, and the Butterfly House is packed with 2,000 extra blue morphos. $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, $5 for children ages 3–12, and free for children ages 2 and under and Missouri Botanical Garden members. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday. 15193 Olive.
The enormous reptiles here might be made of concrete, but Turtle Park is worth a visit for any kid who loves animals. All the sculptures in the park are modeled after native Missouri turtles—creator Bob Cassilly was so concerned with details he borrowed turtles from the Saint Louis Zoo to get the details just right. The turtles and giant snake are meant to be climbed on and explored. Open daily. 6 a.m.–10 p.m. Free. 6401 Oakland.