The lion roars, the parrot talks, and the monkey swings from branch to branch. Although it may seem like you’re in a jungle on an African safari or in the heart of a rainforest, you’re actually in the Pocono Mountains at one of the most popular zoos in the area.
Claws ‘N’ Paws is located on Route 590, between Lake Ariel and Hamlin, off Ledgedale Road. This wild animal park and zoo features numerous rare and exotic species. Referred to as “the zoo in the woods,” people of all ages are enraptured with knowing they can get close to the animals.
Vince and Bobbie Hall opened the park 45 years ago. The Halls are from Connecticut and moved to the Poconos with the intention of opening a zoo. “We have always been animal lovers,” said Mr. Hall. “It was also temporary insanity on my part,” he laughingly admitted. “We never imagined it would be this big, but, decades later, we’re still here and it continues to grow.”
When they first opened the park, the property was only 15 acres and has since expanded to encompass about 100 acres. The zoo is spread out, and shady trails wind through the forest where over 120 rare and exotic wildlife species live. In some cases, the animals are only inches away and, at designated times, the young and young at heart can feed and pet them.
Some of the animals include monkeys, reptiles, colorful parrots, skunks, deer, goats, camels, giraffes, wolves, bears, foxes, pigs, llamas, birds of prey, otters, species of wild cats, including lions, white tigers, black panthers, bobcats, and leopards, and so much more.
One of the highlights is the petting zoo, where visitors can pet and feed the goats, deer, and lambs. Guests are also able to interact with is the Lory Parrot, a small Australian bird. At scheduled times each day, visitors may enter the Lory Parrot area, hang out with the birds, and feed them. The staff distributes apple slices and the colorful birds fly down and land on shoulders and arms to enjoy their snack. According to Mr. Hall, Claws ‘N’ Paws was the first zoo on the east coast to open a Lory feeding area 25 years ago and is one of the most anticipated events at the zoo. “It’s an unusual and exciting encounter for the public. The birds think of people as big toys they can play with.”
Another popular event is feeding the friendly giraffe, one of the zoo’s more exotic animals. The giraffe likes to interact with people and give kisses. Giraffe feedings are held three times a day, and people are given carrots to feed the giraffe. This gentle animal has no problem taking carrots from eager palms. Mr. Hall explains that Claws ‘N’ Paws is the only zoo in the country where the public is given food to feed the giraffes.
While the Lory Parrot and the giraffe are crowd favorites, Mr. Hall has a soft spot for the snow leopards. “Two years ago, three babies were born—Alex, Abby, and Gabriel. I had a chance to cuddle them and it was so thrilling.”
A new feature this year is the “Keeper Chat.” This is similar to a meet and greet, in which the public can visit various animals and get to know them up close and personal. Each day features a different animal or reptile. The Keeper Chat will take the place of the wildlife shows and will allow for a more personalized experience.
Claws ‘N’ Paws also features a dinosaur outpost with Dino Digs and fossil hunts, Turtle Town where children can mingle with African tortoises, and a separate area for gemstone mining. The property also holds a snack bar with nearby picnic tables and a gift shop. Claws ‘N’ Paws is open 7 days a week, through mid-October, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information, call (570) 698-6154 or visit www.clawsnpaws.com.
By: Allison Mowatt