Black Pine Animal Park - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Black Pine Animal Park

Brad & Karen Brad & Karen
"The Girls" "The Girls"
Feeding time Feeding time
Suds & Hagar Suds & Hagar

Black Pine Animal Park is not a typical zoo, it's a  sanctuary.  They exist to give rescued and retired animals a safe haven, and to educate people and enhance their knowledge of exotic and endangered species.

The general public is allowed to meet and observe the exotic animals, while caretakers plant a seed of awareness that can positively impact the conservation and preservation of exotic and endangered species around the world, as well as their natural habitats.

Visitors of all ages are provided a unique opportunity to meet (REALLY up-close!) exotic and endangered animals including lions, tigers, chimpanzees, monkeys, leopards, bears, and dozens of other mammals, birds, and reptiles from all over the world.  Their animal population is made up of individuals who have retired from performing, or been rescued from private owners who tried to keep them as pets.  Your visit to Black Pine Animal Park will be unlike any zoo you've ever seen!  It's an experience for all ages.  Come see, listen and learn! 

Your all day admission will enable you to enjoy self-guided walking tours of the sanctuary, as well as personally guided tours, lasting from about 90 minutes to over two hours.  Your visit will provide a more intimate understanding of  wildlife than any regular zoo. You'll learn about each species' life in the wild, and in captivity.  Our on-site gift shop offers a variety of souvenirs, and your purchase helps fund the care of the animals. 

History

The story of Black Pine goes back to 1982 when Brad Bonar and Karen Hoag were married.  And if you have the good fortune of meeting either of these hard-working, dedicated people, you'll probably learn it's been a wild ride for them ever since!

After nine months of remodeling their newly purchased historic country home, the Bonars moved into their new digs with daughter, Megan, and two dogs. But it just didn't seem right to them that they had an entire 12.5 acres without more animals, and they soon found themselves lonely for livestock.

Brad was raised in the country, but Karen had always been a city girl until marrying Brad and moving to the smallest township in the United States. Both shared an affinity for animals and so they purchased enough lambs to have a small flock of their own. Problems began the next spring when it came time to sell the spring lambs, and neither Karen or Brad were too happy about their babies going off to a slaughter house. That's when they began the search for something more to their liking, something they could raise without the guilt of a death sentence.

As it would happen, Brad noticed an advertisement in a local trading paper for South American ostriches. Soon after, the Bonars owned their first pair of rheas, and proud they were of those gangly, unusual looking things that slowed people down as they drove by.  Bonar's Funny Farm was born.

During this period of time, Karen was also fulfilling her desire to help animals in need.  She became a licensed Department of Natural Resources rehabilitator.  She worked at first with opossums, squirrels, skunks and raccoons, but ultimately learned how to help owls and raptors, carefully monitoring their healing, then releasing them into the wild.

The farm became even busier when llamas arrived, but it was the decision to take in two mountain lions that began to change the course of the park.  Yes, mountain lions.  Previous owners were in a bind because one of them had developed an illness that put her health in danger should she continue caring for these large cats.  So started the first 'rescue' of an exotic species, and Black Pine Exotics was born.

Still, time went by, and more animals made their way to this small Albion farm.  What had grown into Black Pine Exotics was still very much a hobby born of a love for animals, and a source of great satisfaction. Somewhere along the way, however, the hobby became a fair amount of work. Being raised in the polite state of Indiana, the Bonars generally were willing to show passersby around. Soon, word got out that "those people" would show you through their little farm if you asked. One day, Karen proudly showed a family through, and the father slipped her a twenty dollar bill, saying "This place is great!  I hope this will help buy some feed." That was another revelation in the  evolution of the park.

Small dreams seem to evolve into what they are destined to be, and Black Pine was destined to grow. Grim reality set in that in order to continue, the Bonars needed to start charging a modest fee for the tours people wanted. Karen retired from her career as a hair stylist, while Brad continued to maintain a full time job in industrial sales.  People came by the hundreds in the first couple of years there was a sign in the front yard, and never complained about paying. In fact, it was common to hear "you don't charge enough."  The funding from gate admissions was just enough to keep the operation going, but at times the work was completely overwhelming.

Being "animal people" has made amazing things happen over the years. Having a clean operation sooner or later comes to something good. Through a single phone call inquiring about the purchase of a cougar cub, Brad and Karen wound up being introduced to some of the most famous circus stars in the world.  It wasn't long before Bengal tigers arrived, followed by black bears and camels, all retired circus performers needing permanent homes now that their performing days were ending.  In 1995, Black Pine Animal Park was born, and to help add to the operating coffers, a gift shop and volunteer staff also became realities. 

Since 1995, Black Pine has further expanded it's mission simply due to demand.  Rescued pets have added to the population, and brought forth an awareness by the Bonars of the need to educate the public about how to make wise decisions with regards to sharing their lives with animals.  After over 20 years of evolution from a backyard hobby, to over 13,000 visitors in 2003 and over 40 species of animals numbering about 80, Black Pine does indeed have a full-time business going on.  Though the park can't lay claim to the multi-million dollar enclosures of many metro zoos, it does have animals who truly enjoy the enrichment people bring to their captive lives.  And without a doubt, the park has impacted thousands of visitors who come to see what life is really like among these beautiful creatures who so desperately rely on the many staff, interns, and volunteers who keep them healthy and enriched. 

In late 2003, another dream finally came true.  A group of very dedicated volunteers, alongside Brad and Karen, launched the Professional Animal Retirement Center (PARC, Inc.), a 501c3 non-profit organization that as of January 1, 2004 has taken guardianship of the operation.  A board of directors was established, along with committees for public relations, fundraising, and healthcare.  Black Pine has become a respected sanctuary whose future is stable... the sky's the limit!

About the Park

The park is situated on 12.5 acres of land surrounding a home, with several outbuildings.  Tours are 'walking tours' through grassy lawns and crushed gravel drives.  Though there are rolling hills where the pasture animals reside, the tour areas are virtually flat.  Black Pine also offers, for your convenience:

  • Free Parking
  • Wheelchair accessible grounds and gift shop
  • Gift Shop with souvenirs, candy, drinks
  • First Aid
  • Free use of covered picnic area
  • Free use of wagons and strollers - first come, first served

To make the most of your visit, please consider the following options and our recommendations...

  • Admission purchased for Black Pine enables you to come and go from the park all day (hours vary).  Each admission entitles you to a self-guided tour.  We provide a guided tour map and information about the animals.  Self-guided tours are recommended for anyone visiting with children age eight or younger. 
  • Our optional staff-guided tours, at no additional charge, are offered during June, July and August and occasionally on 'bonus days'.  Tour times are posted daily.  These optional tours are recommended for first-time visitors, and also for those age nine or older.  Conducted by a member of our staff, these insightful tours offer you a chance to ask questions and learn personal histories and facts about each species on exhibit. 


Park Season - Days Open 

Please note... where stated below that park is open until 4 p.m., we will allow entrance up until 4 p.m., after which no further admission is allowed.  We aim to clear the park and close by 5:00 p.m. except for

* Saturday and Sunday Feeding Tours.  Feeding Tours will last until approximately 5:45 p.m. and the gift shop will remain open until all guests are served.    

June - August 

  • Park is open daily except Mondays.
  • Tuesday - Friday open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Saturdays open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.*
  • Sundays open from 1 to 4 p.m.*

September

  • Park is open weekends and Labor Day.
  • Saturdays open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.*
  • Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.*
  • Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.*

 October - mid-November

  •  Park is open Saturdays through November 13, 2004, at 10 a.m., with Self-Guided Tours available, weather permitting. Staff-guided Tours for groups of 20 or more also available by appointment.

December - April

  • Park is open for groups by appointment only until May 1, 2004.  Call 260-636-7383 for details.

May

  • Park is open weekends and Memorial Day.
  • Saturdays open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.*
  • Sundays open from 1 to 4 p.m.*
  • Memorial Day open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.*

*Exclusive Feeding Tour Days.  Tour begins at 4 p.m. and park closes to all except those attending the Feeding Tour.  These extended tours last until approximately 5:45 p.m., after which the gift shop will remain open until all guests are served.


Tour Information

Self-guided Tours include a park map and printed reference information about the animals.  Staff are on site whenever the park is open to help answer any questions and to ensure an enjoyable and interactive experience! Especially recommended for families with toddlers and babies who wish to keep the pace moving quickly, or for those who like to tour at their own pace. 

Staff-Guided Tours feature personal presentations, by our staff, of each animal species, facts and stories, and when possible, up-close animal encounters.  We highly recommend our Staff-Guided Tours for first-time visitors, and families with older children.  Tours typically last about 90 minutes.

Feeding Tours are led by a senior staff zookeeper.  Guests join along during evening chores to see the animals receive their meals, and enjoy an entertaining and educational presentation that includes facts about each species' life in captivity and in the wild.  This tour provides an opportunity to witness animal behaviors seen only at dinner time!  Our Feeding Tours are interactive, educational and unique!  This tour requires that all in attendance remain with the tour guide at all times.  Tours last approximately two hours.  (Not recommended for young children due to the length of the tour.)

Group Tours are designed specifically with education in mind.  Black Pine hosts thousands of students, pre-kindergarten to college age, each year.  Our staff will arrange a guided tour to meet your group's needs, with time allowances and ages of guests considered.  Please call for an appointment, or submit our easy web form!  Available year-round, though we recommend scheduling between April and October due to weather concerns.  

Admission

Babies - 2 and under are free, children (3-12) - $4.50, ages 13 and over - $5.50, ages 55 and over - $5.00, Feeding tour: add $1 per person, except babies.

Directions

Take I-80/90 west and exit in Angola, Indiana on I-69 south to US 6 west. Proceed west on US 6 to SR 9. Take SR 9 South into Albion. Once in Albion, the park is located just 3/10 mile west of the intersection of S.R. 9 and West Jefferson Street.  West Jefferson runs along the north side of the courthouse square just one block north of the intersection of S.R. 9 and S.R. 8 at the stoplight. 

Black Pine Animal Park
349 W. Albion Road
Albion, IN 46701
(260) 636-7383

www.blackpineanimalpark.com

 

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