Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary achieves ASA Accredited Status

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, October 24, 2019
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Photo Courtesy YWS
YWS lovingly cares for its animals like 25 year old Buster shown here in his annual checkup, and will shine even brighter with its ASA certification.

After years of taking on the challenge of caring for injured, abandoned or orphan wildlife, with its ups and downs in an aging facility and changing staff, the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary made a huge leap over the years in upgrading and expanding its facilities and was duly rewarded. 

On Oct. 17, Director Vernon Weir of the American Sanctuary Association (ASA), granted the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary (YWS) the privileged status of Accredited Status for its facilities. This status has long been admired through the years of YWS’ evolution and has finally been achieved to its great credit. 

YWS is the first animal sanctuary in Montana to earn the prestigious American Sanctuary Association accreditation. 

“This is a huge step for our Sanctuary,” said Executive Director Gary Robson. “Fewer than 50 sanctuaries in the country are accredited by the ASA, and we’re proud to have earned a spot on that list. This accreditation shows that we’ve been thoroughly vetted by a highly-respected professional organization, which will help us with everything from animal placement to grant applications.”

For over 30 years, YWS, a nonprofit, has provided lifelong sanctuary to non-releasable greater Yellowstone ecosystem wildlife while sharing a message of conservation and education. For decades, the YWS has provided homes to animals whose only other option was euthanasia.

Robson said, YWS began exploring ASA accreditation in 2016 and spent much of 2019 working in earnest on the comprehensive application. The ASA reviewed policies, procedures, financials, staffing, permits, and licenses before scheduling the site visit, which took place last month. They also reviewed reports from APHIS (USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), which inspects the facility at least once per year. During the site visit, ASA Board Member Bobbi Brinks from the Lions Tigers & Bears sanctuary in California interviewed staff and looked at habitats, veterinary care plans, facilities, emergency plans, animal care procedures, and acquisition policies.

YWS is a staple of Red Lodge history that has provided endless support for wildlife, educated and delighted locals and tourists alike, and been a particular source of pride to the community whether showcasing its lions, wolves and bears or its many individually loved characters such as Poe, the raven, Speedy the bison or beloved Buster the bear, who just excelled in his annual checkup at 509 lbs. Donations are welcome to buy food to keep fattening him up. 

The facility has expanded. Most excitingly, it has just completed a large wolf habitat that is ready to receive a small pack of 2-4 wolves with up to 5 being able to be kept there. The habitat was expensive and donations are always needed here, too. 

According to YWS, this accreditation will open the door to new grants and donations, as it shows that YWS has met the stringent requirements of the ASA. Grants are critical for the Sanctuary, as it receives no federal funding. Most of the $365,000 annual budget comes from grants, private donations, and admissions. The equivalent of over $50,000 in food for the animals (not included in the budget total) is donated by area grocery stores each year.

Founded in 1998, the American Sanctuary Association (ASA) has two primary programs. First, it is an accrediting organization that requires member animal sanctuaries to comply with a variety of high-quality animal care standards and housing requirements. ASA member sanctuaries are not allowed to breed, sell or trade animals, or use them for commercial purposes. Second, ASA actively works every single day to find sanctuary placement for a multitude of homeless, abandoned, seized and abused exotic animals, non-releasable native wild animals, farmed animals and companion animals. 




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