Hidden In Plain Sight: Where Can You Find Rare Birds, An Alligator, And A Cougar In Ann Arbor?

Dec 4, 2017

One of 7 macaws at the Creature Conservancy.
Credit Lisa Barry
A Macaw named Levi at the Conservancy.
Credit Lisa Barry

From nature walks to dinosaur bones, most people are familiar with many of the opportunities to see animals in the Ann Arbor area.  But did you know on the southwest side of the city there are dozens of unique animals to see and learn about?

As part of our ongoing "Hidden in Plain Sight" series, 89.1 WEMU’S Lisa Barry takes you to the “Creature Conservancy.”

A cougar at the conservancy named Harper.
Credit Lisa Barry

Harper rubs up against the glass at the conservancy.
Credit Lisa Barry

It all began about 12 years ago with an abandoned alligator and an unclaimed macaw.

Levi is one of 7 macaws now at the “educationally focused wildlife park,” which serves as a rescue for poorly chosen pets, or animals sent from other zoos for educational purposes.

That’s how the Creature Conservancy began, when someone abandoned an alligator, and they took it in beginning a non-profit organization housing and caring for unwanted or abandoned animals and occasionally acquiring other animals to use for teaching purposes.

A Kookaburra named Orbit.
Credit Lisa Barry

Across from the macaws are two warthogs, Sophia and Scooter, housed in the arena area of the main building at the Creature Conservancy.

Patricia Billette is the manager of The Creature Conservancy, who works there because she has a great love of animals and a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Science.   She loves them so much, she handpacks food for the 3 year-old cougar named Harper and throws it in for her to eat.  The young cougar is kept securely in its own area and trained for educational presentations and veterinary care enrichment.

Upstairs in the arena in the main building at the Creature Conservancy is a roost – a bat roost.

Inside is a colony of Egyptian fruit bats, which can also be seen downstairs via a special "bat-cam."

The educational room for special programs at the Creature Conservancy.
Credit Lisa Barry

There is also a kookaburra named Orbit, which makes a loud screeching noise sometimes mistaken for a monkey.

There is also an education center and display area, where the many educational programs take place at the Creature Conservancy.

Patricia Billette is the manager of the Creature Conservancy.
Credit Lisa Barry

In addition to six employees, there are dozens of volunteers.  Ben Harshberger brings a big bowl of freshly peeled fruit and one onion to feed the porcupines, hoping the experience will help him in his career of being a vet.

Courtney Steinmetz has volunteered there for the past 3-4 months and sees it as a career stepping stone.

The Creature Conservancy is open to the public on weekends, but used primarily for schools and educational purposes during the week.  For the month of December, they are featuring reindeer.

Volunteers Ben Harshberger and Courtney Steinmetz.
Credit Lisa Barry

Overall, there are 80 species of animals at the Creature Conservancy, just off Ann Arbor-Saline Road--hidden in plain sight--on the southwest side of Ann Arbor.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu