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.”