DECEMBER 3, 2014

Walk on the wild side this holiday season: tours offer close encounters with native and other wildlife

See snakes, alligators, lizards, bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and more
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SCOTTSDALE – Looking for a unique way to spend the day with family and out-of-town visitors over the holidays? Tour two wildlife sanctuaries in Scottsdale for up-close encounters with Southwest native and exotic animals – and learn the difference between sanctuaries and zoos.

Phoenix Herpetological Society (PHS) and Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) – both unique sanctuaries that offer an intimate look at desert and other wildlife – are offering tours throughout the holiday season, starting Thanksgiving week. The sanctuaries are located a few miles apart in lush desert surroundings on Scottsdale's northern edge, making it easy to visit both in one day.

Tours will take place in small groups with opportunities to get up close to the animals. Guides will provide insights into the unique roles these animals play in our ecosystem.

The reservation-only tours take place now through Jan. 3, with more than one tour time most days. The schedules vary at each sanctuary so be sure to check dates and times by contacting the sanctuary or checking its website. Reservations should be made separately with each sanctuary.

Phoenix Herpetological Society
pheonix herpetological society( – PHS is home to the second-largest Crocodilian collection in the United States and the largest collection of venomous snakes in the Southwest, along with many other reptiles. Feast for the Beast: PHS is offering visitors the opportunity to feed reptiles – including alligators, turtles and others – for an additional fee ranging from $5 to $20 (depending on the animal).

The cost for the 2.5-hour tour is $20 for adults and teens 17 and older, $15 for seniors and kids ages 4 to 16; children 3 and under are admitted free. Call PHS at 480-513-4377 (HERP), and select option 3, or email

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
( – SWCC is the only organization in the state that is qualified to care for and permitted to rehabilitate large carnivores like bears and mountain lions. The SWCC Nature Center also is home to a variety of mammals native to the Western United States, including endangered Mexican Gray Wolves.

The 1.5-hour tour costs $20 for adults and teens 13 and older, and $10 for children ages 3 through 12 (with children under 3 admitted free). Purchase tickets at by going to the Calendar and clicking on the date and time you want to take a tour. Call the education line 480-471-3621 if you have any questions.