Animal Tracks Is One Of L.A.’s Most Unique, Fun Experiences you MUST visit

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebaltin/2017/09/15/why-animal-tracks-is-one-of-l-a-s-most-unique-and-fun-experiences/#15e184a04062.  Steven Baltin – Contributor

Condensed from above URL.  Visit it to read the full story.

One of the many goals of Animal Tracks, (http://animaltracksinc.org/), run by former movie animal trainer Gunderson, and her husband, a current movie animal trainer, is to educate people about animals. It’s not a zoo, though she jokes, not without reason, the sanctuary, where she and her family live with the animals, is like the Cameron Crowe movie, We Bought A Zoo.

“Other than the fact they all drink, they all eat, they all poop, they’re all different,” Gunderson says of the many species of animals at Animal Tracks. “I will say you would never treat a sugar glider the way you treat a chimpanzee and you would never treat a chimpanzee the way you treat an alligator.  Every single species, I have found, has that little something unique to know.”

Los Angeles native Michelle Cano is a devout animal lover who has lived a great deal of her life about 30 minutes from Animal Tracks, Inc., an animal sanctuary in Aqua Dulce, California.

Animal Tracks qualifies as both hidden and an absolute gem. For animal lovers it is one of the most enjoyable and unique days you can have in L.A. As we did the three-hour tour we looked at each other countless times and said, “I never thought I’d see this,” starting with the opening of the tour, where we watched two monkeys getting a bath, Baltin stated.

Whether it’s the kangaroo or armadillo Cano mentions, or the wolf hybrid, Scout, a serval named Monzo, the hedgehog Harley Quill, the giant frog Prince Charming, or the python, The Erminator, all the members of the group get to wrap around their shoulders, the animals clearly trust and love the staff members.

Gunderson explains that is the result of a lot of training. “You have to do 10,000 hours with each species,” she says. “It’s very regulated, through the USDA and they come out and inspect us. They set the rules and regulations. Then you have California Fish And Wildlife and they come out and this is all spot, they don’t tell you when they’re coming, they just show up whenever they like. And Fish And Game is the most in depth, it’s probably about 50 pages, and that’s just to renew your permits, it’s not to add new species. Before you can add new species you have to prove you have the caging and the credits, you have to say why you want it and then they determine if that’s okay.”

“The monkeys bathing was my favorite,” Cano says. “They were so adorable and to see them bathing themselves, they’re like people.”

Monkeys taking a bath, something you have to see to believe, a common refrain at Animal Tracks, is one of the many one-of-a-kind experiences you have at Animal Tracks. After the bathing experience, our group – their tours go up to 10 people – is escorted outside to a picnic table for the “Monkey Experience.”

There we spent an hour as the different monkeys are introduced to the group. We are instructed by trainer Stacy Gunderson and her staff to let the monkeys come to us, which they do in their time. Once they get comfortable, in between eating fruit and granola from a bowl in the middle of the picnic table, they climb on us, feel our faces, playfully take our stuff, like my sunglasses, and interact with the group.

Monkeys taking a bath, something you have to see to believe, a common refrain at Animal Tracks, is one of the many one-of-a-kind experiences you have at Animal Tracks. After the bathing experience, our group – their tours go up to 10 people – is escorted outside to a picnic table for the “Monkey Experience.”

There we spent an hour as the different monkeys are introduced to the group. We are instructed by trainer Stacy Gunderson and her staff to let the monkeys come to us, which they do in their time. Once they get comfortable, in between eating fruit and granola from a bowl in the middle of the picnic table, they climb on us, feel our faces, playfully take our stuff, like my sunglasses, and interact with the group.

Cano has been to many of the biggest L.A. animal sanctuaries and she has no problem calling Animal Tracks her favorite. “It’s the most hands on,” she says. “I always wanted to pet a kangaroo and I got to do that here. I got to pet an armadillo. I love how much you get to interact with the animals.”

Gunderson admits taking over Animal Tracks, which they did in 2008, was not easy. Now that they have one of the most unique spots in all of L.A., and arguably the best for animals, their goal is to expand greatly in the next few years.

“I would like to set up a place where people can come with strollers, with shade trees and kid-friendly animals, with bunny rabbits, and they can picnic. I’d love to have a hands-on area where people can hang out with flamingoes and monkeys and have that bucket list experience,” she says. “And I would love to have an area where we can do educational shows, where people can come to us and we can have school buses come and we can educate kids. We’ve really outgrown this facility, we’re looking for something bigger, better, faster, stronger.”

Animal Tracks deserves to grow and for everybody to know about it. After Cano and I posted our experiences there on social media, we both received numerous messages from friends wanting to know where this is and how to go and experience the tour. We only hope that as it grows it does not lose the intimacy that makes Animal Tracks so special.

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