welcome banner for the southwest wildlife conservation center in north scottsdale arizona

We visited the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, AZ, for the 2nd time.  A woman that was there said she's lived in Arizona for 42 years and this was her first visit because she didn't know it existed.  We'd love to spread the word.

The first time we went, it was just Jimmy and me.  This time we took our son and our granddaughter.  I missed the available reservation for 2:00 on Christmas Eve so we went the day after Christmas at 10:00.

You have to set an appointment as you are taken into groups with a guide.  Although she had a mask on this time because of the pandemic, I think it was the same guide that took us through the first time a few years ago.

This is a true animal conservation center and sanctuary

Although I feel most zoos are into some sort of conservation today (or they pretend to be), this is a real animal conservation center.  What does that mean?

They are geared to release any animal that is deemed fit to go back into the wild.  They try not to imprint on these rescues.  They don't want the wild animals to get used to humans.

They have a veterinary clinic on-site and will treat, rehabilitate, and release whenever possible.  Unfortunately, it isn't always possible.

Some animals can't be released

Some of the animals they have rescued that couldn't be released were exotic pets.  On the tour, you only get to see the animals that will have to live in the sanctuary for life.  One interesting thing is that animals in the sanctuary usually live longer lives than those out in the wild, so I guess that's the good news.


When you first enter the conservation center, you gather at a covered area with picnic tables.  There are a few large bird cages with owls.  On the other side you can see wolves.

owl on chimney at Tatum Ranch in Cave Creek, AZ

This photo is not one of the owls in the cages but is a pic my husband took of an owl at dusk on our neighbor's chimney.  We have three small dogs so we have to be careful and the guide told us about owls carrying pets off, and not to leave pets unattended in yards.

This has made us think twice about getting a doggy door.  Our Pomeranian mix Pumpkin Pie is probably a little large for an owl to fly off with, but one could still hurt him with its talons.  Pumpkin is the only dog of ours that will stay outside for a length of time.  Our smallest chihuahua mix is our biggest worry as she's only about 11 pounds, but she will not stay outside for long unless one of us is out there with us. 

Mountain Lions

tocho mountain lion scottsdale az southwest wildlife conservation center

UPDATE: Tocho passed in 2021. This is Tocho, and he is smaller than normal because he was kept as a pet and wasn't fed properly.  This caused the bones in his body to not form properly, called metabolic bone disease.  In fact, when he was found he had broken legs and a shattered pelvis.  They call him a "low-rider" because his legs are forever short.  This also causes arthritis.

This year they rescued 6 mountain lion cubs.  Another rescue tried fostering one group but the foster mountain lion mother rejected them.    Mountain lions have to stay with a mother for quite some time to learn how to live, hunt, and thrive.  Without this, these 6 cubs will not be able to be released back into the wild.

Our guide was able to get one of the babies out for us to see, but it wasn't a great photo op because of the others in our group and the wired cages.  The baby didn't stick around very long and went back to the other cubs.


I was surprised to see this small animal right next to the mountain lion Tocho's cage.  Maybe they get used to each other.

The star coati is Peanut, who was found on a roof of a house at about 6 weeks old.  She was very friendly with humans, so the center decided she shouldn't be released for her own safety.

Lou the Mule Deer

lou the mule deer scottsdale arizona

This is a photo of Lou the Mule Deer, who is not alone.  There are does but they have to separate them during mating season.  The center does not breed animals, and they do not neuter the deers because it is too dangerous for the animals.

They've had him since 2012.  He was a fawn when they got him and the woman who delivered him said it was a doe named Luana.  They had to shorten it to Lou when they found out he wasn't a doe!


I have better pictures of bobcats that were resting on my brother's roof in Silverleaf at D.C. Ranch, but this video was taken at the center.  We were staying there temporarily between the sale of our Scottsdale place while waiting for our new place to close.

There are several bobcats at the center that can't be released.  One had been injured by a dog and at least two were found alone.  The problem with wild animals being found by people and held onto, even for a short period of time, is that they start to imprint on humans.  Once that happens, they can't be released.

Black Bears

I took 3 pictures of one of the black bears named Heavenly, but because of the crowd (and spacing) and the wired cage, none of them turned out well.  Go to the center to see Heavenly stand up tall on two legs to get the peanut butter from the guide. EDIT: I found some other pictures of the bears, I believe this is Cinnamon standing up for peanut butter.

bear standing up to lick peanut butter off the metal

My son was astounded to see a bear so closely. Heavenly, a male bear that is not shown, was found alone in Lake Tahoe as a youngster (about a year old).  He wasn't doing well, so was sent to a different rehab center.  They rehabbed and released him.

Unfortunately, he went back to where he was found, which was near the Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe.  He was looking for food from humans.  This wasn't a good situation, so Heavenly ended up at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and will be here for the rest of his life, as will his "roommates".


javalinas at southwest conservation scottsdale

Javelinas are considered pests in Arizona, but I think they're cute and have seen a few in the wild.  I learned a little bit more about them from our guide.

I already knew that they are not pigs.  They are peccaries and are related to hippos!  They are supposed to be stinky but I couldn't smell them with my mask on and have never encountered a herd.

The guide told us the sweet story of Lucky, who we saw with his female friend.  I couldn't find much about him on the website, but the story was that he was found as a baby by a couple of octogenarians who took him in and raised him.

Unfortunately, they fed him some good food but when they were forced to relinquish him (someone in the neighborhood told on them), he made sure everyone knew that one of Lucky's favorite foods was Whopper candies.  I'll never understand how anyone can feed an animal candy.  I love candy, but I don't feed it to my pets.  They did.

So now Lucky lives at the center and is fed all of the nutritious foods he needs.  The original owners still send donations to support lucky, and they have visited him, with Whoppers to give him (which are enjoyed by the staff and volunteers, not Lucky).

Goliath the Tortoise

goliath the tortoise southwest wildlife center

I remember Goliath well from our first visit, and he is the only reptile at the center.  It was warmer out and Goliath was following our group, and he got around.  One woman was afraid of him and kept jumping out of his way.  One time she got up on a fence!

Because it is now winter, he isn't as fast on his feet.  In fact, he didn't move at all this time.  We were told different stories about him, so make sure you make a visit to the center to hear all about him and the rest of the animals.


white silver fox hiding behind foliage at nature center in scottsdale az

Again, because of the people in our group and the fencing, it was difficult getting a good picture of this gorgeous silver fox, which looked very white.  Try to look beyond the bushes.

Our Pomeranian mix looks like a red fox, which I caught in a cute stretch.  Foxes are so cute and I hate thinking about English fox hunts.  Our guide said that foxes were her favorite animals at the center.

Kit Fox

kit fox at Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center Scottsdale

As we get to the kit fox cage, our guide whipped out 2 dead white mice from her pocket.  It was a bit of a wait and finally one of the kit foxes came out to get one of the mice.  It sounded like one fox got both mice and when the second fox came out there was nothing left.  I wasn't sure how she could tell them apart.  They were cute!


I love coyotes.  I wouldn't want them to get one of my pets, but that can be said of many wild animals.  As I mentioned, soon after our arrival we were able to hear the yipping of the coyotes.

We always thought that coyotes did that when they had a kill.  Our guide dispelled that notion, and it makes sense.  Why would they want to advertise that they killed an animal to others and call attention to it.  They wouldn't

She told us they do the coyote howl to scare trespassers, to warn each other of danger, to communicate if lost, etc.  We used to hear coyotes when we lived in IL.  We were in a southwest Chicago subdivision that had a walking path nearby.  I saw a large one walk right past our mailbox and driveway one night (and I had just been out there since I heard the yipping).

One time driving through Fountain Hills, we saw a coyote walking down a sidewalk like he was the area's stray dog.  This was around noon.  I don't remember what month it was, but in IL I only saw one coyote out in the daylight, and my daughter said it was because it was mating season.

At the center, we saw a little coyote named Sangria that I thought was a juvenile.  Our guide told us that it was fully grown.  Once again, this was a wild animal that was raised by humans and was brought up with dogs.

She has doglike tendencies and her growth has been stunted because she was probably fed like a dog when she should have been fed like a coyote.  She doesn't like the other coyotes so she is penned alone, but she does howl with the rest.

Mexican Gray Wolf

mexican gray wolf scottsdale az

When you've seen all of the other animals that can be shown, you are led down Lobo Ln to see the Mexican gray wolves.  You can actually see them before you start the tour because one of the enclosures extends out to the main area.  As I mentioned, during our first visit we were lucky to hear the wolves howling - it was surreal.

These are gorgeous animals and I already knew they were an endangered species.  They are the most endangered wolf species.

Our guide explained how they were reintroduced to Arizona and the methods being used to grow the population and to cut down on inbreeding.  Since the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center doesn't facilitate breeding, this is being done by the Mexican wolf recovery sector of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using a method called "cross-fostering."

It seems to be working, but there is still controversy about this reintroduction.  One of the wolves' food sources is livestock on ranches.  This hurts farmers' bottom lines, so they have been against the reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolves.

Although I can see their side of the story, I hate to see the extinction of any breed of animal.  If you visit the Center, make sure your guide explains the cross-fostering program.

The Center Is Moving!

The center will be moving in the future and they already have the property, but it will take a while to make the big move.  This is good news because there will be more land, which will mean the animals, especially those living their lives out in captivity, will have larger spaces.

I don't know the exact area they'll be moving to, but it's still in Scottsdale somewhere near the McDowall Mountains.  That means it will be a bit farther drive for us to visit, but I love seeing the animals having bigger areas to live in.

You Can Help the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

If you've never visited the center, put it on your list.  Just visiting is a donation.  You can also donate via their website's donation page.  You can make a one-time donation or make it monthly, and there are even more ways to sponsor on their website.

If you visit the center, you can purchase something from their gift shop.  We now have two coffee mugs from the center.  One has a mountain lion and our newest addition is a bobcat. My Granddaughter bought a t-shirt.

You can even sponsor a particular animal.  Go to that page and choose your favorite animal to make a donation in that animal's name.    

You can also donate whenever you order something from Amazon.  Just make sure you use the smile.amazon.com url before paying.  In fact, you can search and put things in your cart on the regular Amazon site, and then switch to the "smile" url to pay for it, but you have to remember to do it, so it's probably best just to go to the "smile" url and then order.  You can specifically ask for the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center to be the recipient of your donations.  You also have the option to switch between the center and other recipients, but we have all of our purchase donations go to the center.  They don't get that much per purchase, but it does add up.

You can also volunteer.  They need direct help with the animals and help with educational programs and tours.  You can find out details on the website.

College credit internships are provided and college credit is given.  There is a small fee and there is no pay.

The center is also set up for corporate sponsorship and boy scouts can earn their Eagle Scout rank.

The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center sanctuary is located at:

27026 N. 156th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85262

This is not a zoo - you can't just show up - you need to make a reservation in advance via phone or their website (which is preferred and you will have to sign a release form online).

Be sure when you drive on the unpaved road that you go about 30-35 mph as it isn't quite as bumpy of a ride.  It seems like the road is better than the last time we were there but there was a slow driving car ahead of us with many cars following and passing.  The driver obviously wasn't aware of the best way to traverse the road.  The slower you go, the bumpier it feels.

Posted by Judy Orr on
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