Official Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary website.
Programs offered at the Sanctuary
- Educational Demonstrations and Guided Tours: Sanctuary volunteers offer tours to the public throughout the year. The tour guides relate the stories of each animal, how it came to live at the Sanctuary, and information about the function and importance of its species in the wild. The tour guides particularly stress the importance of understanding what factors (i.e. habitat loss, poaching, and pollution) are contributing to these species (i.e. tiger, leopard, lion, and ocelot) becoming threatened or endangered. Sanctuary staff members also take a few of the animals, such as macaws and cockatoos, into the community to present educational demonstrations about the role of the Sanctuary in providing homes to unwanted animals, about the dangers and risks of owning exotic pets, and about ways to help sponsor the survival of their species in the wild.
- Outdoor Learning Center: Founded in 2003 with the support of the local school districts, this nature-based classroom offers an outdoor setting for area teachers to conduct lessons on animal welfare, ecology, conservation. The classroom consists of a wooden shed for storing teaching supplies next to 30 picnic tables that serve as desks for the students. Every year, over 3,000 students utilize the Outdoor Learning Center at the Sanctuary, and their admission fees are sponsored by area businesses.
- Mountain Lion Education: The Sanctuary stands in vehement opposition to the recently legalized mountain lion sport hunting season in South Dakota. The Sanctuary is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mountain lions in our ecosystem and to teaching practical and effective ways for people, pets, and livestock to peacefully coexist with mountain lions in the Black Hills. We accomplish this through our tours, off-site testimonies before the community and State wildlife officials, and through distribution of printed material to sportsmen with mountain lion hunting licenses. Members of the Sanctuary staff stress to visitors and hunters alike the difficulty of differentiating between males and females out in the field and about the dangers of killing female cougars, because 75% of the time a female cougar has dependent kittens that will inadvertently be harmed if she is shot. Volunteers also stress that there is NO statistical link between the random removal of cougars with a sport hunting season and a decreased risk of livestock depredation or a decreased likelihood of cougar-human interaction. The Sanctuary is dedicated to tolerance, compassion and peaceful coexistence with our wild earthmates.
- Dog and Cat Rescue and Placement: The Sanctuary places about 20-30 particularly “unadoptable” domestic dogs and cats from the Sturgis/Meade County Animal Shelter, the Northern Hills Humane Society, and the Rapid City Human Society every year. After extensive obedience and resocialization training, the Sanctuary then finds loving families for the animals that are suitable for adoption.
- National Forest Clean Up: Twice a year the Sanctuary spearheads a clean-up of the trails and roadsides through the Black Hills National Forest that surrounds the Sanctuary property. As many as 100 students and community members team up to collect trash and abandoned furniture/appliances/tires that litter the forest and the roadside ditches. The U.S. Forest Service steps in to pay for the costs of depositing the trash at the local landfill.
- Young Offenders Program: The Lawrence County probation officer calls on the Sanctuary as a primary contact when placing at-risk youth and juvenile offenders that are sentenced to community service hours for misdemeanor offenses. The unique experience of working with and around the animals at the Sanctuary provides an important element in the development of mutual understanding and respect between all human and animal life
- Job Corps of Box Elder, SD: Job Corps is a federally-funded organization that offers high school drop-outs valuable vocational and technical skills training for future employment. Members of the Job Corps donate labor and materials as they hone their skills in welding, construction, carpentry and fencing. This past month, the Job Corps team even constructed a temporary enclosure by welding together discarded well pipes.