Walking through the darkness, guests can’t see anything save for the flickering shadows created by the billion twinkling points of star light from above. They reach the end of the path, click on their flashlights, and are immediately staring at…
A grizzly bear or three, each several hundred pounds of pure ferociousness in a cuddly package. Mountain lions that knew you arrived long before you did. Wolves on the prowl, easily goaded into letting out spine-chilling howls that bring the whole park to life in an outstanding pre-Halloween scare.
When Big Bear Alpine Zoo hosts its wildly popular Flashlight Safaris each Friday and Saturday in October, guests see the zoo at its best. Sure daytime visits are great when there’s lots of light for viewing, but it’s after dark when the show really gets going, long after the park is usually closed.
When the sun sets and shadows form, many of the animals that are hard to see by day come alive with the sights and sounds of nature, like snow leopards and bobcats.
The wolves assure guests a howling good Halloween season after dark with bloodcurdling howls cries that send goosebumps up and down the arms. Which in turn gets the coyotes going, creating a spooky starlight serenade. Sure the beasts are in their cages, but even so the heart skips a beat!When the predators become active so too do prey.
Watching the big cats prowl back and forth is worth the $12 admission ($9 seniors and ages 3-10, under 3 free) in itself. Yet the entire park seemingly stirs and becomes more active after dark; beavers that typically are in their den by day come out at night. Foxes, raccoons, skunks and owls are other creatures of the night.
Flashlight Safaris have become so popular, Fridays were added to satisfy demand and now the zoo limits the tours to the first 120 who show up. “We don’t have the spacing at night for more people than that and still keep the group together,” curator Bob Cisneros said.
Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with tours promptly at 7. Bring a flashlight and dress warmly. Call (909) 584-1299 or www.bigbearzoo.org.