By BOB PALMER,
“Come here, Leroy,” Jimmy Moore called. Leroy the donkey kicked up his heels and raced toward the Ranger ATV with Moore at the wheel. Moore has names for many of his 75 animals on the Lonesome Dove Drive-Thru Safari he opened Oct. 13 north of Jefferson on US 59.
There’s Steve the camel and Mike the alpaca in the petting zoo. On the trail winding through hardwoods and pine you can find Leroy and Star, the American Bison, among scores of other friendly creatures. Moore, who has been a pharmacist and a wood products entrepreneur among other pursuits, said the Lonesome Dove Safari came naturally to him. “I love land,” Moore said. “I love animals.”
After turning over management of East Texas Forest Products to his children, Moore developed the park on land he owned along Black Cypress River. “This is retirement,” Moore said wistfully as he steered the ATV between pines. Open daily, the park has already attracted nice crowds, Moore said.
Visitors pay $12 for adults and $6 for children. A bucket of feed costs $4. Visitors must stay in their vehicles as they follow a clearly defined trail marked by bright yellow arrows. Feeding the animals is encouraged, however. The fee allows visitors to take as many loops around the 65-acre park as they wish. On their travels, visitors can spot exotic species such as Eland antelope, Barasingha deer, Sika deer, Fallow buck, Scimitar oryx, Zebu and Blackbuck antelope.
The park also offers a pair of zebras, red deer, longhorn cattle, llamas, wilder beasts and zebus. “I get most of the deer from an exotic sales place in Huntsville,” Moore said. “The other exotic animals come from various places. I’ve been all over the country in the last three or four months.” Moore also found inspiration on his travels. “What I saw in other drive through safaris, gave me some ideas,” Moore explained. Lonesome Dove Safari is two miles north of the US 59/SH 49 intersection on US 59.
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