You do not need to travel to the African savanna or South American rain forest to see fantastic wildlife. According to Martha Kauffman, a managing director and scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, the United States has an abundance of opportunities for memorable wildlife encounters. “The U.S. is home to thousands of species of wildlife, and it’s possible to see lots of these animals up close in their natural habitats,” she said.
Wildlife tours are springing up around the country. Here are four options:
Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska
Kauffman said that one of the most spectacular wildlife viewing experiences she’s ever had was in March in the Platte River Valley, when more than 80 percent of the world’s sandhill cranes, more than 550,000 in all, congregate in the area.
One way to see the cranes is on the overnight photography tour from the Crane Trust. Visitors spend the night in a photo-video blind that can accommodate two people. Prices start at $250. Reserve by emailing the trust directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eagle Spotting and Bison Watching in the Ozarks
In winter, several species of animals make their home in the 10,000-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in Missouri. The park is home to eagles, bison, elk and otters. Visitors can encounter these animals through a private two-hour wildlife viewing tour with a park ranger (prices start at $200 for up to three people) or go on a self-guided biking or walking wildlife viewing tour using the brochure available at the park’s visiting center. Visit dogwoodcanyon.org for more information, and to book a tour.
Sleigh Rides in Idaho
Through the winter, the Shore Lodge in McCall, Idaho, offers an hourlong sleigh ride along the Gold Fork River to see and feed Rocky Mountain elk. Riders are also likely to see white-tailed deer and foxes on the trip. Tickets are $20 per adult, and nightly rates at the lodge start at $260. Visit shorelodge.com to book.
Goats, sheep and bears in Pennsylvania
The wildlife around the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania, includes pygmy goats, Iranian sheep and black bears. The two-hour tours are run by a wildlife expert. Tickets are $90 a person, and resort rates start at $159 per night. Book by calling the resort directly, at 1-866-399-6957.