1-minute hike: Maine Wildlife Park, Gray, Maine

Difficulty: Easy. All woodland trails and roads are short and the majority of them are traversable by wheelchair and stroller.

How to get there: The park is located at 56 Game Road in Gray. From the Maine Turnpike, take Exit 63 and turn left on Route 115. Drive 1/5 mile across an overpass and take a right onto Route 26A. Travel 3.4 miles and the park will be on the right. From the Sebago Lakes Region, follow Route 115 to Gray. Take a left onto Route 26A immediately before the overpass for the Maine Turnpike. Travel 3.4 miles and the park will be on the right.

Information: The Maine Wildlife Park is home to more than 30 species of animals  (as of May 2012) indigenous to Maine, including the cougar, bobcat, moose, black bear, wild turkey, golden eagle, skunk and coyote. All of these animals are non-releasable due to injuries, deformities or a dependence on humans, and many of the animals require special care. Visitors can view many of the animals up close, looking through glass walls or metal fences into their enclosed habitats. And people usually come across free roaming wildlife, such as bald eagles, warblers, turtles and wood ducks.

The park also features several educational exhibits about Maine wildlife, the Dry Mills Fish Hatchery (which raises thousands of brook trout annually), nature store, visitor center, picnic tables, Maine Warden Museum, and a variety of gardens and trails (Wetland Trail, Game Trail and Tree Trail). Wildlife talks are held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.n. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in July and August. And story and craft hour is held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursdays in July and August.

The park is open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (visitors must exit by 6 p.m.) April 15-Oct. 14, and 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 15-Nov. 11 (visitors must exit by 5 p.m.). Admission is free for children younger than 3 years old; $5 for ages 4-12; $7 for ages 13-60, $5 for ages 61 and older; $3.50 per person in a group of 15 or more; $1.50 added per person for a guided tour or school program; and $50 per hour per person for a special photographer’s pass.

In 1992, the Maine Legislature implemented a mandate requiring the Maine Wildlife Park (then called the “Game Farm”) to become financially self-sufficient. Currently, the park has reached that mandate, with all expenses covered by the park’s dedicated account. Substantial donations from private funders, the nonprofit Friends of the Maine Wildlife Park and stand-alone grants enable the upgrade and construct new exhibits and enclosures.

No dogs or other pets are allowed outside of vehicles. For park rules and other information, visit www.maine.gov/ifw/education/wildlifepark/index.htm.

Personal note: I had never seen a black bear, mountain lion, lynx or bobcat up close before visiting this park. Wild cats and bears, in general, are illusive creatures, and many Maine residents may never get the chance to see them in the wild. This park is a great place for anyone who has a desire to see animals indigenous to Maine and get a little exercise at the same time.

(OK, so the video is 3 minutes, not 1 minute, but I had to stretch it a bit more than usual to get all the animals in. Not a bad problem to have.)

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki. A northern saw-whet owl perches on a branch in its enclosure at the Maine Wildlife Park, which is home to more than 30 species of animals that are indigenous to Maine. All of the animals in the park are non-releasable.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.