LOCKPORT, IL — Big Run Wolf Ranch in Lockport is home to more than 20 animals including wolves, coyotes, a bear, tiger, cougar, skunk, lynx, opossum and groundhog. During a typical month in the spring, these animals will eat between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds of meat, owner John Basile told Patch.
Normally, Basile is able to get meat from sources such as grocery stores or even roadkill provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation. When grocery store meat passes its expiration date and is no longer available for human consumption, it is still OK for animals to eat.
“It’s been great for the animals, and it doesn’t have to go in a landfill,” Basile said.
However, with meatpacking plants closing around the country due to coronavirus outbreaks, Basile’s sources have dried up.
“There’s nothing for them to give,” Basile said.
While brainstorming ideas on how to get meat for the animals, Basile said he thought, “Everybody’s got stuff in their freezer they don’t want.”
So, the ranch put out a call for help on its Facebook page asking people to drop off meat from their freezers. Within 15 hours, Basile said the ranch’s five industrial-size freezers were completely full.
“The response was just incredible,” Basile said.
Some people came by with just two or three packages they had in their freezers, which added up quickly, Basile said. Others, such as a hunter from Indiana, came and brought 400 pounds of wild game, including boar and venison. Another donor, a man who works testing meat machinery, donated another 1,000 pounds of meat.
Basile eventually ran out of room in his own freezers and had to use a friend’s to store the extra meat.
Basile said the animals are now set for several weeks.
The ranch posted May 2 asking everyone who wished to donate more meat to hold onto it, as the ranch would be able to take more in a few weeks.
The ranch usually brings in most of its revenue by opening up for family days or field trips for kids. Now that the ranch is completely closed to the public, Basile said no money is coming in. Although the ranch is no longer taking meat donations, people can still contribute monetarily via the ranch’s website.
When the ranch is allowed to reopen, Basile said, there is plenty of room to be able to practice social distancing.
“Everything’s outside,” he said, adding that the ranch can tell people to wear face masks and will have sanitizers available.
“After each group leaves, we can pressure-wash everything with bleach and water,” Basile said, adding that the ranch even has shoe sanitizer that people could use.
Since the ranch has been closed for more than a month, Basile said staff have now started filming video segments so people can see the animals virtually.
“Some schools have been calling and asking us to do something like this,” Basile said. The video segments are something the ranch could continue doing even when things return to normal and the stay-at-home order is over, he said. Schools that are too far to take a field trip to the ranch could use the virtual programming.
“We have so much fun with the kids who come here,” Basile said.
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