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  Photo: Bill Bryant 
A pair of young prairie dog pups cautiously survey their surroundings at the prairie dog village in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton.

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The Oklahoma Aquarium has thousands of fresh and saltwater creatures.

The Oklahoma City and Tulsa zoos are wonderful representations of exotic life in Oklahoma, but did you know there are a variety of animal sanctuaries and refuges across the state? Many of these exotic parks give visitors a personal experience with the animals allowing for an unforgettable adventure.

Tiger Safari Inc., located in Tuttle, is home to many exotic species, including lions, tigers and bears. This 45-acre interactive exotic zoological park is a refuge for close to 140 animals. The park allows visitors to see these amazing animals up close, even offering camping on the grounds. On a walk-through guided tour, you can learn interesting facts about each animal and how they live to gain an appreciation for each unique species.  You can elect to feed chicken legs to a tiger via a long pole for an extra fee. 

For a really unusual treat, visit the Endangered Ark in Hugo where they care for 28 elephants.  This is the second largest elephant herd of Asian elephants in North America.  Hugo is a unique town where several circuses winter, so it is most fitting that this haven for elephants is there.

Wildlife is not all on land – another great place to see animals is the Oklahoma Aquarium. Located in Jenks near the Arkansas River, the Oklahoma Aquarium provides a glimpse of exotic sea life. Boasting the largest aquarium in the four-state region, the Oklahoma Aquarium's one million gallons of water holds more than 4,000 sea creatures. Some of the amazing exhibits include a touch tank, the largest and most comprehensive antique fishing tackle collection and an underwater viewing tunnel where the world's largest captive bull sharks swim around and beside you.

Many of these exotic parks give visitors a personal experience with the animals allowing for an unforgettable adventure.

Some of the other great wildlife parks that Oklahoma has to offer are wildlife refuges, which provide many opportunities to observe native wildlife on their own turf. Nine Oklahoma refuges are part of the larger system of the National Wildlife Refuge. Each one is unique, but all of them offer a fantastic atmosphere to take photos and observe nature.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, established in 1901, is one of the oldest refuges in the state. Located near Lawton in the southwestern part of the state, the refuge encompasses 59,020 acres of mixed grass prairie and one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth. Visitors will find many species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and plants. But among the most popular residents are the prairie dogs and the free roaming bison herds. 

Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge, near Okmulgee, is one of the state’s newest additions.  Established in 1993, the refuge is an important wetland with hardwood forests and a river that hosts many waterfowl, including mallards, wood ducks, pintail and the blue-winged teal.