The Wisconsin Deer Park is a family-friendly petting zoo in Wisconsin Dells, a southern Wisconsin city located alongside the Wisconsin River. Over 100 tame white tail deer freely roam the 40-acre Deer Park and interact with guests. Visitors may walk through the park on a maintained trail approximately 4 blocks long.
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The deer, who are bred and born at the park, are relatively tame and will approach guests to take treats from their hands. The deer are all ages, allowing visitors to learn about all stages of life as a deer. While most of the park’s population are Virginia White Tail Deer, guests may see American Bison, American Elk, Japanese Silka Deer and European Fallow Deer. The Fallow Deer are located in a separate feeding area. Four types of Fallow Deer include Brown, White, Black and English Spotted. The Fallow Deer are easily identified by their broad moose-like antlers.
Additional park residents include horses, pigs and goats, as well as more exotic animals such as lemurs, emus and game birds. Almost all of the 200 animals on site may be petted or hand fed. The park offers feed suitable for the animals such as corn and plain RyKrisp crackers with non-iodized salt. Guests are not allowed to bring their own food.
The park is open mid-April through late October, allowing guests to see fawns in the springtime, the buck’s large antlers during the late summer months, and the beauty of the animals during the fall. During the winter months, many of the smaller temperature sensitive animals, such as the lemurs, are moved to indoor facilities, while the deer spend time in the feeding grounds behind the public areas of the park.
A gift shop on site sells deer-related merchandise including deer antlers that are removed from breeding animals each spring to prevent injury, or naturally shed. Mounted deer found in the store have died of natural causes or old age. Deer at the park live to be an average of 15 years old, twice the average lifespan of wild deer.
History: The Wisconsin Deer Park is family owned and operated, and opened in 1952 under the direction of founder Russ Tollaksen. Tollaksen was inspired after seeing a similar park in Michigan and wanted to bring the attraction to Wisconsin. After three days of family entertainment at the Michigan deer park, Russ decided to move them family from their hometown of Chicago to the Dells where he had grown up. The family bought the wooded land in 1951, and hand-cleared it of trees to make space for the deer. Deer were a natural choice since they are native to Wisconsin. Over the years, the park expanded and brought in more animals, many of which were bred next door at the wild animal park.
Tollaksen’s son Peter remembers his early employment at the Deer Park feeding the animals, caring for the grounds, and cleaning the animals’ enclosures. At the time, there were just a few attractions and souvenir shops for visitors, who mainly arrived by train. Tollaksen’s son Peter purchased the business from his father in 1976 and expanded it with the addition of a gift shop and more public viewing space for the animals. Today, the park is operated by Mr. Tollaksen’s grandson, Aaron Tollaksen and is one of the many thriving tourist attractions along the Wisconsin River.
What’s Nearby: Wisconsin Dells is located alongside the Wisconsin River and is well known for its many theme and amusement parks. The Wisconsin Deer Park is located directly across the street from Riverview Park and Waterworld, and just up the street from the Original Wisconsin Ducks tour boat company, and Noah’s Ark waterpark.
The Wisconsin Duck Tour has been in continuous operation since 1946, and was among the few tourism businesses in existence in Wisconsin Dells when the Deer Park first opened. The company operates amphibious trucks from World War II, and takes guests on tours of the Wisconsin River and on trails through the most scenic areas of the Wisconsin Dells.
For guests who wish to see more animals, the Timbavati Wildlife Park recently opened nearby. The park is home to over 400 animals, representing more than 70 species. Activities include a safari train ride, camel rides, wildlife presentations and other up-close interactions with the animals.
2183 Wisconsin Dells Parkway, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965, Phone: 608-253-2041