Tucked in between the homes in Wheaton there’s an animal sanctuary, the Cosley Zoo. The nationally recognized zoo is owned and operated by the Wheaton Park District and is home to more than 70 species of animals.
Cows, pigs, horses, deer, birds, and foxes are just some of the more than 200 animals at the Cosley Zoo. The zoo specializes in Illinois native wildlife and domestic farm animals.
“We basically want to connect people with animals that impact their life and vice versa,” said Susan Wahlgren, Director at Cosley Zoo. “So we’ve chosen to really focus on those animals and kind of just teach people about how these animals affect their lives and how we in turn affect theirs.”
Cosley Zoo is spread across five acres, intertwined with exhibits and ponds. While their target audience is young children, they offer a unique experience for kids and adults of all ages.
“You can go to the big zoos and spend a whole day and go once a year, but you can come here over and over again,” said Wahlgren. “It’s a more intimate experience where the kids can get closer to animals and get a little more in touch with things.”
“I worked with a family with a lot of kids so this was our place,” said Alia Braaten, Wheaton resident. This is my first time though coming with the grandkids. So it is kind of a new experience. We’ll see how he does.”
The zoo is mainly funded through the park district, but raises additional funds for new exhibits, quality programming, care and training.
“It’s not about training for entertainment, but it’s so we can get the animals to participate in their care cooperatively so there’s no stress involved and it’s mentally stimulating,” said Wahlgren.
Construction is already underway for the zoo’s next exhibit, Bobcats, one of only of two cat species native to Illinois and the only one that currently lives here.
“We’d really like to teach people about these animals, that they’re out there,” said Wahlgren. “We definitely impact their life because they’re not as adaptable as some animals like the raccoon or a coyote but they are impacted by us.”
The Bobcat exhibit opens this fall.
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