The Grand Canyon Deer Farm allows visitors to feed deer and see a wide range of animals for socially distant entertainment. Located in the outskirts of Williams, just 25 minutes out of Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon Deer Farm hosts a herd of 70 deer that flock around any visitor with a purchased cup of mottled green food pellets.
The farm not only promises modestly priced interactive experiences for visitors, but also provides care and rehabilitation for local wildlife.
Many of the friendly deer and other animals at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm are rescues, such as Luna the cow elk. Luna was rescued in June after being attacked by four dogs when she was about two weeks old.
Director of animal care Amy Kravitz was afraid Luna would not survive her injuries, but Kravitz was determined to give Luna all the resources the Grand Canyon Deer Farm had to offer.
Eight months later, Luna is a large chestnut brown cow elk that adores Kravitz and enjoys a warm bottle of milk on a cold day. She joins other rescues like Stormy, the 600-pound elk.
Though the deer are the only animals visitors can feed from their hands, there are over 25 species to see at the deer farm.
Moreover, the farm has unique residents such as Zoolander, the half-zebra, half-donkey hybrid, and reindeers Rudolph and Dasher.
Many of the animal enclosures have information plaques to identify their inhabitants, and educated staff to help with questions, or tell hidden stories such as the love story between the resident zebus Norman and Irish.
Animal care general assistant Rachel Irvine said spectators might even get hissed at by Alvin the sika deer, who clumps mud on his chest during rutting season.
“He thinks he looks good,” Irvine said as Alvin showed off his clumps of mud. “He turns into a monster.”
Animals such as Alvin, Zoolander, Rudolph, Dasher and Ginger the bison cannot be fed by visitors, but Kravitz said the proximity to the animals, including the deer, is not an experience many people will find outside of the Grand Canyon Deer Farm.
However, the visitor experience is not the only priority for the deer farm. Animal care, rescue, rehabilitation and comfort is a main priority for Kravitz, who started as a volunteer at the deer farm.
“We have a lot of aging animals, and it’s a lot of work to take care of aging animals,” Kravitz said. “We’re basically providing a home for something that would have died.”
Oklahoma visitors Michael and Denise King were celebrating their 20-year anniversary in Arizona and stopped by the deer farm for an interactive experience. The couple explained the deer farm has done an excellent job taking care of the animals.
Kravitz said the cost of a $14 adult ticket helps pay for the range of needs for the animals, such as veterinarian visits, food and shelter upgrades. Additional purchases, such as a $4 small feed cup, $6 large feed cup or $12 feed tub keep the farm running.
The deer farm also hosts a small gift shop full of locally made ornaments and jewelry, T-shirts, watercolor paintings, stuffed animals and special snacks. Lucky gift shop visitors might even meet Pumpkin, the plump calico cat who occasionally roams the gift shop in search of affection.
Maintaining 10 acres of land filled with deer, wallabies, miniature donkeys, peacocks, a potbellied pig, a camel and more is undoubtedly a lot to manage, but Kravitz and Irvine said it is always worth it.
“Creating a safe environment for animals and people is the goal,” Irvine said. “Good experiences on both sides.”
The 52-year-old deer farm is open daily with operation hours and more information listed on its website. The farm is available for walk-ins, but visitors interested in a more involved behind-the-scenes experience like the Zoo Keeper program require a reservation. This allows participants to follow and help the zookeepers feed and take care of the animals on the farm.
Whether visitors are looking for an involved experience like the Zoo Keeper program or just some friendly deer with big appetites, the animals and staff at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm provide a welcoming and fun experience for all.