By DAILY SUN STAFF | Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2010 5:20 am
A 158-acre wildlife park opens this morning in east Williams.
Built in less than a year, Bearizona Wildlife Park has animals outdoors for drive-through tours, and a walking section with younger animals.
Burros, buffalo, bighorn sheep and black bears are on site now.
Wolves are coming next, and mountain goats, bobcats, lynx, raccoons and porcupines are expected later this year.
Mountain lions, armadillos, coati-mundis, foxes, musk ox, badgers, skunks and river otters are planned for 2011.
To accommodate them, construction workers installed fencing and built rock sculptures and ponds this spring.
Drivers going through the park will be asked to keep windows closed, and no feeding or petting the animals is allowed.
The Williams City Council was eager to have the park, which was opened by Sean Casey and his brothers, whose family has a similar operation in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Casey plans to attract 100,000 people this year, including those heading to the Grand Canyon, and to eventually invest about $15 million in the park, which will feature North American species.
Ultimately, he hopes for 400,000 visitors per year.
Bearizona will also be a home to some orphaned or confiscated wildlife from other states.
The park employs 45 today, said Jocelyn Fischer, operations assistant.
It's estimated the animals will eat through 500 pounds of food per week, not including grain, and the City Council gave the wildlife park access to 4 million gallons of water per year for all uses.
This year's plans include an entrance station, fencing, roads, a warehouse and restrooms.
A gift shop and possibly a hotel would come later.
The park is open daily except for January, February and during major storms.