If you live in the Central Okanagan, you’ve likely heard of Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country.
Kangaroo Creek Farm is a hobby farm, but it doesn’t house your traditional North American farm animals. Sure, there are chickens and pot bellied pigs, but the comparisons stop there.
Located along Hill Road in Winfield, Kangaroo Creek Farm has nestled a small part of the Australian outback in the Okanagan.
Hence the name—the featured animals at the Kangaroo Creek Farm are kangaroos.
But while the kangaroos are what the farm is best known for, it does have other critters representing Australian wildlife, such as emus, the second largest bird in the world, and sugar gliders.
South America is also represented at the farm with several capybaras, the largest rodent in the world, and maras, the fourth largest.
The farm also has numerous parrots and parakeets from around the world, all rescued from various shelters.
The opportunity to pet kangaroos, hold the baby joeys and hang out with the other animals in their enclosures is a big attraction to both locals and tourists.
I had been there once before, but I was given the opportunity a second time to shadow along with the staff and get an inside view on what it takes to care for the Kangaroo Creek Farm animals.
My entire life, I’ve been something of an animal dork. It started as a young kid watching as many children’s TV shows about animals as I could.
After my parents would kick me off when my allotted one hour of television for the day was up, I would often head outside to collect as many insects and creepy crawlies as I could.
As I got older my interest never really changed, I simply graduated from shows like Kratt’s Creatures to documentaries, such as Planet Earth.
I try to go to zoos as often as I can, and I have had some friends who went to the zoo with me ask why I’m not a guide there.
But while I’ve had many opportunities to observe animals from a distance, research obscure facts and learn what I can through documentaries, I’ve never really had the chance to actually interact with the animals, which has always been a lifelong dream of mine.
Enter the Kangaroo Farm, where you can do just that.
Upon my arrival at the farm, I was greeted by Wendy Brunell, the farm manager, who greets everyone who arrives to visit.
Like all the staff at the farm, Brunell is one of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
After introducing myself and having a quick conversation with her, she gave me the ground rules which everyone hears—no running, no jumping, children must be supervised by parents at all times, and pet the kangaroos along the back.
If you don’t, they may think you’re playing—and then they’ll show you why they are the best boxers in the world.
She sent me off to roam around the farm, visiting with other guests and the rest of the staff, interacting with the animals and simply observing other human-animal interactions.
It didn’t take long for me to be there to realize several things.
First, these animals are loved by the staff and owners of the farm.
All of them have names, which is impressive given the sheer number of creatures on the farm, and it’s obvious they are well cared for and happy.
The creatures all have ample room to run around if they so choose, although on my visit most of them were simply lounging in the sun.
With the number of animals on the farm, keeping them safe is the number one priority for staff.
Second, it became readily apparent to me that the largest part of their job wasn’t supervising the animals, but rather the guests.
Whether it be a simple reminder to the children about not running, or telling an adult to keep their child close to them, the staff were kept busy making sure no one startled the animals.
I was impressed by the way the reminders were handled, as no matter how many times over the course of the day the staff had to reign someone in, it was always done in a friendly, positive manner.
Although they joked about getting tired of sharing the same animal facts over and over again in the course of a day, such as how capybaras are the largest rodent in the world, the demeanour of the staff never changed, as they always made sure everyone had the best experience they could.
While I was there, three areas of the farm were open to the public.
The first I visited was the smaller of the two fenced-in enclosures, and had most of the smaller creatures.
It was here the chickens, a turkey, and the capybara were roaming around.
Terry Lawson was the staff member observing the enclosure, and she had food on hand for anyone wanting to feed the animals and to answer those inevitable questions.
Off to the side of the enclosure were two pens, one for the maras and one for the pot-bellied pigs. The joeys are also usually in the central enclosure.
From there, I headed to the greenhouse, where they had sugar gliders, several birds, and a few of the joeys in man-made pouches.
The joeys are the farm’s biggest attraction, due in part because the public has a chance to hold them. And, if you happen to be at the farm during feeding time, you can feed them as well from a milk bottle.
At another part of the farm, Keith Wightman was looking after the birds, doing his best to make sure everyone had the chance to have their pictures taken with them.
And not just any pictures, as Wightman makes it his personal mission to make sure everyone gets the best pictures they can, whether it be on your arm, shoulder or head.
One thing Wightman is great at is identifying who doesn’t want their picture taken.
Ornithophobia, or fear of birds, is actually one of the most common animal fears, he says. Many adults won’t actually have their pictures taken with the birds, and many children won’t do it either.
On this day, as everyone approaches the birds, Wightman is watching each of them for ornithophobia clues as he doesn’t want to put people on the spot and possibly scare the bird as well.
The final area I visited was the largest enclosure, where the kangaroos and emus were.
All attendees were allowed to wander around and pet the animals, which many of the creatures seemed to enjoy.
The kangaroos here spent most of their time lounging about (most mammals are, in fact, quite inactive), although occasionally one would begin hopping around, which was quite neat to see in person.
If you’re lucky, you may also get to hear one of the emus cry out.
It’s not a sound that I would know how to describe, but it can be much louder than you would expect.
While the experience of visiting with the animals was one I won’t forget soon, what really stood out to me was watching the interactions between people and the farm’s mammalian residents.
Seeing the looks of delight on children’s faces, or gleeful surprise as they fed a creature, was truly heartwarming to see, and the adults in attendance weren’t far behind them. They may not have had the youthful exuberance of our next generation, but it was obvious they were still greatly enjoying themselves, and every once in awhile you could see one of the adults abandon the less energetic, more mature persona we build around ourselves as they became enthralled with what they were experiencing.
After all, where else can you pet kangaroos, emus, and capybara?
The Kangaroo Creek Farm is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily until July. That’s when the summer schedule kicks in: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. daily.