Connecticut’s Animal Instincts Last Updated 5/17

By Traci L. Suppa
From emus to eels, countless creatures from land and sea make their home in Connecticut’s aquariums, wildlife parks and zoos. Take your Dr. Doo-littles to these six attractions where they can interact firsthand by feeding goats, petting alpacas, holding horseshoe crabs, riding ponies or even touching sharks. 

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Bonny Belugas

In Mystic, a window wall is all that separates you from the main attraction at Mystic Aquarium, the kind-natured beluga whales. This is the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the United States, and the only place you’ll see them in New England. Make sure to visit the Animal Rescue Clinic, the Exploration Wild wetlands habitat and the Marsh Trek boardwalk. Special encounter programs allow you to meet whales, penguins, seals and stingrays one-on-one. 

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Cool Critters

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport provides habitats for 300 animals representing 120 North and South American species. You’ll find rare and endangered critters such as an Amur leopard, Andean condors, golden lion tamarins, ocelots and Siberian tigers, as well as more familiar ones such as American alligators, prairie dogs and wild turkeys. Other highlights are the South American Rainforest, New England Farmyard and an indoor carousel. 

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Meet the Alpacas

Visitors to Burgis Brook Alpacas in Canterbury get to meet 55 Peruvian Huacayas on a 285-year-old farmstead. Call first to make sure the owners are not at a farmers’ market selling items knitted from the alpacas’ wool. They’re happy to talk about the fleece-to-yarn process, but they’ll also let you pet some of the residents. Alpacas have distinct personalities, so it’s best to find a calm one, like Xena or Lacey Lou. 

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Down on the Farm

As you explore Flamig Farm—part of Farmington Valley’s landscape in West Simsbury—you may notice a few chickens. There are 400 of them, as well as 40 other animals, including emus, llamas, sheep, mules, goats, rabbits and pigs. You could meet Flower, an 800-pound pig, or bottle-feed one of the piglets. The petting zoo is open every day from April through November. Pony rides are offered on weekends, giving you the chance to take Waffle, Latte or Chief out for a trot. Fall hayrides are a seasonal favorite. 

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Warthogs & Water Buffalo

At Action Wildlife Foundation in Goshen, you have a choice: you can walk or drive through this 116-acre animal habitat. Or both. There’s space aplenty for live reptile and birds-of-prey habitats, as well as lifelike taxidermy wildlife displays of bear, bison, deer, rhinos, water buffalo and warthogs. Stop at the petting barn to feed sheep and pet ponies. Back to the car for a slow safari to observe rare and exotic species, including American elk, aoudad mountain goats, zebra, ibex and Japanese sika deer.

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See Some Sea Life

With a focus on Long Island Sound marine life, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk features sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles, jellyfish and more than 100 other species. To get a closer look, there are three touch tanks with intertidal animals, jellyfish, sharks and stingrays. Visit the new 3,000-gallon Coral Reef exhibit and the Sketch and Release interactive 32-foot video wall. Unique features include the state’s largest IMAX movie screen and the Spirit of the Sound research vessel.