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FAMILY | FOR THE KIDS

Into the Woods

Waystation lets kids see wild animals in their natural habitat.

March 13, 1997|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When 12-year-old Elizabeth McCann visited the Wildlife Waystation recently, high above the San Fernando Valley, she "adopted" a raccoon named Skye. Elizabeth, attending with a group from Mt. Washington School, was one of 11,000 kids who have traveled to the wild animal shelter in the Angeles National Forest during the last year.

Families looking for a weekend outing can visit the Waystation, too--on the first and third Sunday of each month--and choose one of the 1,000 animals sheltered there to sponsor. Besides raccoons, there are mountain lions, bobcats, bears, wolves, birds, snakes, turtles, deer and a host of other animals at the private, nonprofit 160-acre facility.

Advance reservations and a small donation are required for the one-hour, 10-minute tour. But volunteering to support an orphaned animal is optional. Elizabeth got her parents to agree to share the cost of Skye's maintenance with a $5 per month contribution because she told them, "My favorite animal is a raccoon!"

Elizabeth's love of wild animals is not unusual, but most kids have little contact with these creatures outside of zoos. The Waystation provides a rare chance for kids to see animals in a natural habitat.

Martine Colette, founder and president of the Waystation, says, "It's a wonderful place for parents to bring their children because they will see, up close and personal, many majestic animals that most people live their entire life without a chance to see."

The tour is conducted over unpaved ground, so good walking shoes, as well as sunscreen and hats, are recommended. Parents should consider in advance whether their children are old enough for such a trek. The tour concludes with a visit to a petting zoo of tame animals.

Each year, Colette says, over 4,000 creatures are taken in by the Waystation because they have been injured, abused or abandoned. Some are survivors of the illicit wild animal trade. Animals are treated by veterinarians and looked after by local volunteers. At any given time, the facility has over 1,000 animals in residence. The others have gone on to homes in reputable zoos or animal parks.

BE THERE

Wildlife Waystation, 14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Road, five miles above the Osborne Street exit of the 210 Freeway. Times vary by season, reservations required. Tours are free for Waystation members, but one-day memberships can be purchased for a small donation. (818) 899-5201.

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