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Five great places to see wild animals

Get up close and personal with Northwest wildlife

Visit big cats at the Wild Felid Advocacy Center. Photo credit: Wild Felid Advocacy Center

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The Northwest is a wild kind of place, at least outside of the cities. Mere miles outside of Seattle, Portland, Tacoma and other major Northwest cities, you'll find forests and bodies of water and the Northwest as it was before humans took over. You'll also find plenty of places to encounter wildlife in semi-wild environments - parks and sanctuaries designed to let you appreciate wild animals while letting them remain (mostly) wild.

Northwest Trek
Northwest Trek allows you to get up close and personal with wild animals, yet keeps you completely safe in a tram that takes you on a tour of the park. Northwest Trek is home to hundreds of animals that roam freely on a 435-acre habitat. Animals include bison, elk and moose, deer and bighorn sheep, trumpeter swans and beavers. The park also has predator animals, but they are kept in enclosures as they tend to throw off the ratio of wild animals if they're let loose in open spaces.

11610 Trek Dr. E., Eatonville.

Wolf Haven
Wolf Haven is exactly what it sounds like - a refuge for wolves. While the wolves that live in the sanctuary were born in captivity, they now live in a mostly wild environment. Visitors can see them up close only on a guided tour, which lasts about 50 minutes. Just like in the wild, the wolves are not there to perform, so sometimes they may be sleeping or hiding. There are more than 180 wolves at Wolf Haven, though, so visitors usually spot several.

3111 Offut Lake Rd. SE, Tenino.

Wild Felid Advocacy Center
Like Wolf Haven, the Wild Felid Advocacy Center is a refuge, but instead of wolves, this place is all about cats. Run by volunteers, Wild Felid welcomes visitors for one-hour visits and a tour by a volunteer guide. Visitors can walk the five acres of the facility and see 11 different species and more than 50 wild cats, including Bengal and Siberian tigers, leopards, cougars, lynx, bobcats, and two very rare Gordons cats. To visit, you'll need to make an appointment by calling 360.427.4466.

3111 E. Harstine Island Rd. N., Shelton,

Olympic Game Farm
The Olympic Game Farm may be the most unique place to see wildlife in Washington state, and it gives an entirely new meaning to "up close and personal." The game farm is most famous for its Drive Tour, which lets visitors drive a route through the farm and feed wheat bread to some of its animals, including llamas, Tibetan yaks, bison and zebras. Animals on the drive tour live in an open space, while predators such as big cats, bobcats, coyotes and bears live in enclosures. If you feed the animals, you will get some slobber on you and your car, so be prepared.

1423 Ward Road, Sequim,

Whale Watching
If you like to see wildlife totally in its natural environment, there may be no finer way than a whale watching tour. Depending on the time of year, you'll see gray, humpback, and minke whales as well as orcas. Since you're out on the water, you'll also see other animals, from sea lions and seals to bald eagles and porpoises. Several companies run tours, including Clipper Vacations, which runs a whale watching tour (with a stop at Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands) right out of Seattle. Most companies leave from Anacortes, Everett or Port Angeles.

Pier 69, Seattle,

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