Shalom Wildlife Zoo – West Bend

Hi everyone,

During our recent stay in the Kettle Moraine State Forest (here’s a link to my post from last week), we visited the Shalom Wildlife Zoo located on the northeast edge of West Bend, Wisconsin. Typically, I’m not a big fan of zoos but I made an exception for two reasons:

  • First, I wanted to know more about the interesting name. Shalom means “peace” in Hebrew.
  • Second, a photography group, of which I am a member, recently took a field trip to Shalom Wildlife Zoo. I wanted see if this place presented some interesting photographic opportunities.

The Shalom Wildlife Zoo takes its name from the road where it’s located, Shalom Drive. It seems that in the 1920s, a wealthy local industrialist, purchased one-hundred-acres in this rural township near West Bend. He set out to create an estate worthy of his station in life. The local authorities created a new business tax that angered this fellow. This prompted him to sell the land to the Catholic Church because they wouldn’t have to pay tax on the property. When asked to name the road passing the estate, the nuns, then living there, suggested Shalom because it was such a peaceful place.

The current owners of the property, David and Lana Fechter, acquired the property in the late 1970s. They never intended to turn it into a zoo. They began a deer farm and when local residents began asking for tours, they add animals to their collection. In 2010, they became a State of Wisconsin licensed zoo and open to the public. This zoo is home to over 75 species and more than 750 animals. You’ll see some of them on our journey.

After turning off Shalom Drive into the large parking lot, we masked up and entered the ticket building that includes a large gift shop of all things zoological. The attendant at the ticket counter handed us a sheet with options. We indicated that we wanted to just purchase the entry fee of $14 per person. After seeing our gray hair, assuming we are decrepit, he explained that the walking path is about four miles. They offer the rental of a golf cart for $30 for two hours. We turned that down and said: “We are perfectly capable of walking that distance.” He tried again without success. Then came the sales pitch for one-quart buckets of “special” animal feed for $5 a pail. I turned down that too, not that I’m cheap but didn’t want to carry around a bucket for four miles. Finally, he took my $28 in cash and put a wrist band on each of our arms. His final words to us were: “If you still have the wrist band on at the end, you get a free Cedar Crest ice cream.” Yippee, what a deal! Pardon my sarcasm. With this ordeal over with, we entered the zoo.

The road is wide and one-way, there’s plenty of room for walkers and golf carts. It weaves around the property with little side diversions for learning centers and additional animal exhibits. Generally, the educational signs were large and readable but several used too many words in their explanation.

The first animals we saw were the red kangaroo, mink, ducks and geese, and raccoons. We caught the mink and raccoons napping, they took one look at us and closed their eyes!

Of course, we had to stop and look at the State Animal of Wisconsin, the badger. Look closely just below the sign and the back of the cage to see it staring at us. He/she didn’t look happy!

Down the road were the red and arctic fox. We only saw the red guy, he totally ignored us.

This variety of deer was looking for food. You’ll remember I didn’t buy any but I did see the group in front of us feed them so he couldn’t be too hungry.

This critter was shy but interesting to watch. As you can see from this photo, most of the large animals had a lot of room to roam through the natural terrain.

The water buffalo and the emu’s were paired in a large pasture. They must tolerate each other. Note the emu photobombing the water buffalo.

This ram had quite a set of horns. One of the educational placards said the bigger the rack, the more attractive to females. So size does matter!

This fallow deer was so close, it was looking for food, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it’s finely decorated coat.

The Barbary sheep were an interesting lot. This fellow kept following us as we walked around the enclosed. Maybe he thought my cameras contained food. The ram was laying right next to the fence. He’s been around a while, at least according to the wear on his horns. It looks like the sole of my old hiking boots!

There were quite a few elk in the zoo. This group was feeding on a bale of hay. The bull elk came over to check us out. He had very large set of antlers, hence the large number of female elk hanging with him, some with calves.

The small band of Tarpan horses originate from Europe and Asia where they once ran wild. There is some doubt whether true Tarpan horses still exist as most were killed off in the 1800s. These are likely a subspecies that intermingled with domestic horses during the last two centuries. Still they had an interesting look. This fella was trying to attract the attention of a park visitor with a bucket of grain.

This fat brown bear was so still, I wondered if he was real. He looked like he was praying with his hands together resting on the big rock. He finally moved so I knew he wasn’t fake!

As we walked along, we saw the llamas, camels, ostrich, zebras, two kinds of tigers, and bison. 

Near the end of the road is a nice playground and petting zoo. This fellow was searching for food. His horns were small enough so he could poke his head through the wire. His bigger friend couldn’t do this trick but he tried!

On the road, we did see a few folks driving golf carts. While the website and brochure state the road is four miles, my best guess it’s closer to 2.5 miles, maybe 3 at the most. I had less than 7000 steps. 

The final creature I’ll show is this grade school boy who was walking through the zoo with his grandma. He made good use of the climbing feature near one of the animal exhibits!

Would I make return visit? Likely not unless I was accompanied by a couple of kids. The photography was ok, not what I expected.

I’ll give Shalom credit for the large pens and wide open spaces but some of the smaller animals like the skunk, porcupine, ferret could use more room and nicer enclosures. If you decide to go, here’s a link to their website.

And yes, we did get our “free” ice cream as we left the zoo!

Until next week, happy travels!