Wilson's Wild Animal Park photo

A white tiger at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park is seen in fall 2016. The Frederick County business has closed following a search that resulted in more than 100 animals being seized.

WINCHESTER — Wilson’s Wild Animal Park, a family attraction in eastern Frederick County for more than 40 years, has closed after police seized more than 100 animals from the zoo.

According to a Friday statement from the state Attorney General’s Office, a court-approved search warrant was executed at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park on Thursday and Friday to explore allegations of potential animal cruelty.

The exotic and agricultural animals seized from the zoo included lions, tigers, bears, camels, birds, water buffalo and goats. The roster of seized animals, which numbered about 120, listed a deceased lemur and a deceased cat.

The animals are being cared for by animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partners.

The search warrant was executed by law enforcement officials from the Virginia State Police with assistance by Attorney General Mark Herring’s Animal Law Unit, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, along with animal welfare experts.

On Friday, Wilson’s Wild Animal Park’s Facebook page disappeared, and its website stated that the park was closed until further notice.

The park is owned by Keith Wilson, who did not return The Star’s call for comment. A seizure hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29 in Frederick County General District Court.

Wilson’s Wild Animal Park opened July 4, 1976 at 985 W. Parkins Mill Road. In a 2016 interview with The Star, Wilson said the park draws 100 to 200 people a day during the week, and up to 500 people during the weekend.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) frequently criticized Wilson’s, claiming the zoo failed to provide lions and bears sufficient space. PETA also believes a July 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging that a local facility prevented animals from engaging in “species typical behavior” was referring to Wilson’s Wild Animal Park. The report said the number of employees at the park was insufficient and it had only one employee to take care of approximately 175 animals.

The Attorney General’s Office said Friday it will provide additional updates as “appropriate.”

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

(5) comments

Truth

This is a well run zoo, USDA certified, the animals are loved and very well cared for. This is a disgraceful abuse of power and waste of tax dollars. Leave animal owners ALONE!!!

#petakills

Tammy Webber

I've been to Wilson's many times throughout the past 6 years & I've spent a long time observing the lion, tigers, & lemurs because they are my favorite & I can honestly say I never saw anything wrong with how they were being cared for or their living conditions. Infact I was impressed by the man taking care of them who was so gentle & kind to them & had such a great relationship with the lions! It was more than obvious this man loved his job more than his paycheck. I walked through the entire pard on each visit & every animal always had food & water & shade. There wasn't a time that someone wasn't going through the park refilling there water to make sure it was fresh or full. A few months ago someone abandoned 4 Peking Ducks in my neighborhood that had no place to go & had their wings clipped & they kept sitting in the road. I didn't know what to do & couldn't just let them get run over. Animal control wouldn't do anything. I called Wilson's & told Mr. Wilson about these ducks & he didn't know anyone who take them but when I told him they might get run over he said "well we can't have that bring them up here theres a place for them here where some other ducks are living" it was clear he had no space but he wasn't going to let them get hurt. That's not a man who doesn't care about animals. At the last minute I found someone who took the ducks but the point is Mr. Wilson is a man who loves animals. Maybe the funds just weren't there for them to do all that needed to be done? Maybe he was doing the best he could do...people always jump to think the worst & jump to think the negative things. I highly doubt Mr. Wilson was willfully doing anything wrong by those animals. I'm sure that he is devastated by this. I wish people would show some compassion. It's not like he was abusing these animals. And he hasn't been found guilty of any charges. People should stop & think what it must be like to be responsible for hundreds of animals, the grounds, ordering supplies, managing employees, the bills, the visitor, ect... with only the little bit of money made from admissions, giftshop, & the food machine...that doesn't add up to much ...

Eredmon

My wife was new to this area, and I recently told her as we passed the sign, that we should return soon so she could see such a wonderful private zoo. Sure, many may say bad things about exotic animals kept this way, but Mr. Wilson aquired these decades ago, legally. He and his family are obviously kind animal lovers. These animals were part of his family. I don’t know the specific complaint that led to this, but fault myself more than the Wilsons for not visiting his incredible zoo more frequently, allowing him and the animals more financial possibilities. God bless you, Mr. Wilson, my family wishes you well.

Bruce and Penny Triplett

Thank God! It's about time. Hopefully, this filthy, cruel place will be closed down for good.[thumbup]

Linda James

Amen !!! This should have closed years ago.What a disgrace on this county all these years.🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

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