Kroschel’s Wildlife Center

By , September 27, 2017

Michelle’s boss, Joe, treats his employees and their families generously. You may have “met” Joe in the past on this blog (see Where Eagles Gather).

Recently, as a pre-event to the annual end of the season barbecue at Joe and Edie’s place, Joe took everyone—staff, their families, and other people important to Rainbow Glacier Adventures—to Kroschel’s Wildlife Center.

We have lived in Haines 11 years since last August. We bought the property 12 years ago. In all that time, we’ve never made it to Kroschel’s until now.

Red Fox

Steve Kroschel holds his friend, a red fox (Photo: Sarah A. Zeiger).

We wanted to. We talked about it, planned to go there, but it’s way the heck up the valley, and it can be a rather expensive day trip on our frugal budget. So, when Joe announced the outing, we rejoiced!

In brief, Kroschel’s is a wildlife reserve for orphaned wild animals, all of which may be found naturally in Alaska. It’s run by an amazing man, a film-maker, naturalist, free thinker and spirit, Steve Kroschel, his family, friends, and employees. As you can see from the center’s Website, the public can tour the grounds, and see and learn about these animals.

Kodiak brown bear

“Kitty” the Kodiak brown bear enjoys a couple of pies (Photo: Sarah A. Zeiger).

Part of the attraction is Kroschel himself. I’ve seldom witnessed a person following his bliss so steadfastly as Steve Kroschel sharing his animal family with others. He’s quite the showman, and he obviously cares deeply for the animals in his charge.

Wolf

The wolf waits for a treat . . . of a carrot! (Photo: Sarah A. Zeiger).

Lynx

A beautiful lynx (Photo: Sarah A. Zeiger).

A visit to Kroschel’s represents a strange proposition for us, living as we do in the forest, on the edge of Lynn Canal. Our group spent two hours at the center; we didn’t see any of the raptors that live there, only mammals. We saw 11 types of animals. Of those, we have seen 6 on our property (bear, moose, ermine, marten, porcupine, mink); 9 or 10 visit our area (add lynx, fox, and wolf to the previous list), but we have never seen them here. Only the reindeer, domesticated caribou, are found only in other parts of Alaska than ours.

Still, the experience turned our daily life on its head. We’ve had encounters with many of these animals, but not in controlled situations, where we could observe without concern for our safety or our property’s. Kroschel interacts with his animals on a level few people can, which shows even the most familiar homestead visitor in new ways.

Pine Marten

A pine marten makes an extremely brief appearance for a snack of strawberry jam (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Most strikingly, under Kroschel’s supervision and encouragement, guests can feed carrots to a moose cow named Karen by holding the carrot in their teeth, and getting a moosey “smooch.” Watching my wife and daughter do this felt odd, and recalled less felicitous interactions with moose on our property (see Charged By a Moose). It felt like a carnival ride, dangerous thrills in a safe setting.

Woman feeding a moose

“Are you going to kiss your husband with that mouth?” Michelle feeds Karen the moose. Check Steve Kroschel’s expression and gesture. Like a dad feeding a toddler! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

woman feeding a moose

Daddy’s “little” girl is way too close to that moose! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Perhaps most thrilling, for me, was getting to see a real, live wolverine. Wolverines may be the most widely dispersed, yet mysterious carnivore in Alaska. In all my years in the state, I’ve gotten rare glimpses of footprints, hair, and other sign, but I have yet to see a live wolverine in the wild. Steve hand raised his—the two of them put on quite a show. The animal play-mauls him as he tries to talk to visitors. I’d heard about this performance, but that’s no substitute for seeing it first hand.

Banff the wolverine strikes a heroic pose (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Boys will be boys: Banff the wolverine mock mauls his friend, Steve Kroschel (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I’ve talked in the past about the importance of appreciating one’s local attractions (see Be a Tourist in Your Own Town). Our trip to Kroschel’s Wildlife Center reminded us how rewarding this can be.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy