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One Tank Trip: Catoctin Wildlife Preserve

By Karin Mallett, Anchor / Reporter, KMallett@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 17 2011 09:46:40 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 04 2010 09:10:25 AM CDT

THURMONT, Md. -

Instead of observing from afar, you have a chance to get up close to animals in the wild. But this trip is not for the faint of heart.

The bread is not your appetizer, but you'll get a hunk of it before you board. You'll want it for later as you take your seat on an Army surplus troop carrier.

"The people are in the cage and the animals roam free," said Callan Hahn, safari manager.

The deuce and a half is your ride through the wild. The bread is for the friends you'll meet along the way.

The Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo spans 70 acres right over the Pennsylvania line in Thurmont, Maryland and the twist on the animal experience is the Global Wildlife Safari Ride.

"We put you in the cage, which is this 10 wheel drive truck that will take you through any terrain and take you out into the animals enclosures," said Hahn, who seems to be at peace here. "I grew up with our house in the middle of the zoo, so we were always surrounded by animals at some point or another."

Hahn's parents bought the place in 1966 when it was a two acre snake farm. Snakes still slither by, but you'll likely be taken with the more than 200 animals you'll encounter on safari.

"Even the wildest animals are willing to come up and approach you in the truck because they know you are in this cage and you can't get out," said Hahn.

So we met Shaddrock on our second stop and he's looking for some food. He'll eat it right out of your hand as soon as you pull it out of the bag.

"When your nose to nose with the yak or when the camel puts his head over your shoulder and eats out of your hand," said Hahn, "it gives you a personal connection to the animal that you can't get most other places."

He knows most by name.

"They all have personalities, just like people," said Hahn.

And you'll wish the hour ride wasn't over.