Share this article

Discover

print logo

Wildlife sanctuaries to explore with the family

There’s something truly heartwarming about seeing kids and animals come face-to-face. No, not dogs, cats or bunnies—although those can be cute sights, as well. We’re talking owls, deer and other animals that make their home outdoors.

Western New York is lucky to have so many wildlife and nature sanctuaries that offer children and families a unique opportunity to see animals in their natural habitat. Here are details on a few of the area’s most notable spots straight from the mouths of staff members and volunteers—plus a movie recommendation to end the day with. That way, families can spend the evening pondering the day’s sights.

Beaver Meadow Audubon Center

1610 Welch Rd., N. Java

Buffalo Audubon seeks to connect people to nature through birds at sites like Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, a 324-acre nature preserve in Wyoming County.

Animals kids can expect to see
“Children can visit the reptiles and amphibians inside the center, and then hit the trails and ponds to search for signs of life,” says Buffalo Audubon Society Executive Director Melissa M. Fratello. Little eyes can also spot deer, beavers, salamanders, turtles, snakes, otters, bald eagles, green heron and wood ducks.

Most popular activities for kids
Fratello says there are family-friendly, naturalist-led programs throughout the year, but there are “plenty of opportunities for self-guided fun, including our ‘nature play’ area.”

Why summer is the perfect time for a visit
In addition to daytime sights, Fratello says the Buffalo Astronomical Association has an observatory in the meadow with telescopes available for moonlight viewing on the first Saturday of every month.

What to watch when you get home
Spot any unique birds at Beaver Meadow? While 2001 animated favorite “Rio” takes place in Brazil, kids might enjoy keeping the bird theme going before bedtime.

Charles E. Burchfield Nature and Art Center

2001 Union Rd., West Seneca

Located in the Town of West Seneca, the Burchfield Nature and Art Center consists of 29 acres featuring trails, a playground and a gallery building.

Animals kids can expect to see
“Buffalo Creek flows through the park and visitors can keep an eye out for our duck families, herons and hawks,” says BNAC volunteer Carol Yetter. During certain times of year, frogs, turtles, rabbits and baby deer can also be spotted.

Most popular activities for kids
“Our playground is the focal point for children, but we are seeing more and more families walk the trails as part of their outing,” Yetter says. “We put in a tree stump garden last year in the woodlands that encourages venturing beyond the playground.”

Why summer is the perfect time for a visit
Yetter says summer weather is ideal for enjoying the two miles of walking trails in the park that travel through gardens, woodlands, meadows and along the creek.

What to watch when you get home
My kids love all of the BNAC, but it’s hard to top the playground. My guys call it the “Ewok Village” playground—you’ll see why when you visit—so how about following up a day at the center with “Return of the Jedi”?

Hawk Creek Wildlife Center

1963 Mill Rd., West Falls

A unique nonprofit founded in 1987 and based in West Falls, Hawk Creek offers up-close wildlife encounters and also rehabilitates nearly 500 injured and orphaned wildlife each year.

Animals kids can expect to see
“Visitors at Hawk Creek come face-to-face with nearly 100 animals from around the world,” says Curator and Education Director Tanya C. Lowe. The list includes small wild cats (lynx, fishing cat, bobcat), porcupines, fox, macaws, reptiles and raptors (eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, vultures).

Most popular activities for kids
“Kids love seeing the animals interact with their trainers,” Lowe explains, “and the flying bird show is always a big hit—raptors soar inches above the heads of the audience.”

Why summer is the perfect time for a visit
Lowe says Hawk Creek is only open for events during the summer, and “these special days allow the community to enjoy the grounds and meet the animals on their home turf.”

What to watch when you get home
Owls are among Hawk Creek’s most popular animals. Therefore, let’s watch “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” a film featuring everyone’s favorite pet owl, Hedwig.

Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

93 Honorine Dr., Depew

Owned and operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Reinstein Woods in Depew is a 292-acre nature preserve that serves as home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Animals kids can expect to see
Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center Director Meaghan Boice-Green says the lineup includes everything from water birds like great blue herons and Canada geese to beaver, muskrat, snapping turtles, pileated woodpecker and fox. “Unfortunately,” Boice Green adds, “there are no alligators, which is something kids often think they might see.”

Most popular activities for kids
The off-trail “nature play” encourages kids to build with natural materials and balance on logs. In addition, families can borrow a “Junior Naturalist Backpack” or a “Can You Find Me” guide from the Education Center during their visit.

Why summer is the perfect time for a visit
“Summer is a time when there’s always reliable animal activity throughout the woods,” Boice-Green says. Plus, day camps are offered in July and August.

What to watch when you get home
Birdwatching is a highlight of a Reinstein Woods visit, so the 2001 documentary “Winged Migration” is a fine viewing choice. The film explores the journey of various birds during their winter migration.

Tifft Nature Preserve

1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo

This 264-acre wildlife sanctuary owned by the City of Buffalo and operated by the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences is, says Digital Marketing Coordinator Brian Field, a place for Western New Yorkers to “immerse themselves in nature.”

Animals kids can expect to see
“The list of species that call Tifft home is extensive,” Field says, “but visitors are most likely to see birds, deer, frogs, turtles and as the sun fades in the evening, maybe even a glimpse of a beaver swimming in the marsh.

Most popular activities for kids
Tifft offers plenty of programs and camps, and during these events and regular visits Field says kids can expect to “experience local wildlife in such an up-close manner.”

Why summer is the perfect time for a visit
The summer months provide an opportunity to truly appreciate Tifft’s unique vibe, says Field: “Find a shady bench and take the time to sit and listen for a while. You’ll forget you are still in the City of Buffalo, and just minutes from downtown Buffalo.”

What to watch when you get home
How about heading into the wonderful world of insects? The 1996 French documentary “Microcosmos” is stunningly photographed and wildly entertaining. It may serve to make the kids want to race back to Tifft and see what they might have missed.

Western New York Land Conservancy

Locations in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties

The Western New York Land Conservancy protects more than 6,500 acres of land on more than 80 properties throughout Western New York. These sites include old growth forests, wetlands and grasslands.

Animals kids can expect to see
“At the Stella Niagara Preserve on the Niagara River in Lewiston you can see bald eagles and osprey fishing offshore, or Monarch butterflies in the wildflower meadow,” says Deputy Executive Director Jajean Rose-Burney. “At the Mill Road Scenic Overlook in Aurora, bobolinks nesting in the meadow. And at Mossy Point, a large forest in Wales, you can walk through a creek looking for crayfish or listen to flying squirrels high up in the trees during a night walk.”

Most popular activities for kids
“Kids love splashing through Hunters Creek at the Kenneglenn Nature Preserve,” says Rose-Burney. “And at Owens Falls, kids love looking for frogs in pools above the waterfall.”

Why summer is the perfect time for a visit
Rose-Burney says summer is the perfect time for “a hike through one of our forests. It may be hot outside, but underneath the canopy of tall trees, it feels 20 degrees cooler.”

What to watch when you get home
The 2016 remake of “Pete’s Dragon” includes some wonderful forest scenes shot in New Zealand. Some of these locations may remind kids of the aforementioned “canopy of trees.”

Story topics:

There are no comments - be the first to comment