By Garrett Valenzuela
RENO — The sweltering afternoon sun may be at its hottest in this month, but the evening temperatures warrant cool evening walks. Why not take that walk by flashlight surrounded by cheetahs, mountain lions and black bears?
Of course, all risk is eliminated when strolling within eyesight of these animals at Animal Ark wildlife sanctuary. Animal Ark will host its annual “Ark at Dark” event Saturday under the evening stars at its facility near Reno. The event gives visitors a flashlight-guided tour of the sanctuary to see dozens of species of animals they house.
Miriam Smith, development coordinator at Animal Ark, said the animals seem to enjoy the cool evening air as much as their visitors do. A night tour offers the chance for patrons to see animals that are sometimes hidden or sleeping during the hot summer days.
“The mountain lions are usually more awake and roaming around when it is cool out, and we can usually get the wolves and the coyotes to howl for the groups,” Smith said. “Most of the animals are a little more frisky and active because it is around dinner time, so people will get a chance to see some different action than during the day.”
A special feature to this year’s “Ark at Dark” will be an appearance and presentation by a Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist, who is bringing in a night owl for visitors to get up close and personal with. Smith said people often do not get the chance to interact with wildlife animals, particularly owls, up close so the guest appearance will be a great sight to see.
The ambiance of the flashlight tours, according to Smith, will be made all the more special due to the lack of extra light around the sanctuary.
“We don’t really have lights out here, other than in the (information) building, so it will be a much more exciting and intimate experience to hear the talks and explanations from the tour guides,” she said.
The “Ark at Dark” is one of Animal Ark’s popular annual events, with 50 RSVP notices already made. The organization also holds several weekend events designed for education and entertainment. Its cheetah runs attracts visitors to see the felines run at speeds of 70 mph on a closed course, and later this month it will host an “Out of Africa” fundraiser in which a percentage of the funds will go to raise awareness of cheetah conservation.
Smith said the Animal Ark equally values providing shelter and food for wildlife animals and educating the public about various wildlife issues and animals.
“We are providing homes for animals who cannot survive in the wild and we hope to inspire awareness,” she said. “We see about 6,000 school children every year and host field trips during the school year and when the kids are not in school we do outreach programs to raise awareness.
Animal Ark is located at 1265 Deerlodge Rd. From Reno, take US 395 north and go right on Red Rock Road then travel 11.5 miles and go right on Deerlodge Road. The “Ark at Dark” event will open at 7:30 and the tours will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13.50 for seniors and children ages 8 and older are $12.
To reserve tickets, call 775-970-3431 or visit www.animalark.org.