Animal sanctuary provides safe haven
for exotic pets
CHELSEA KROTZER Of The Billings Gazette
Cory Freeman is careful where she walks. She's never sure
what creatures could be underfoot.
No one wants to trip over a 70-pound tortoise, unexpectedly
cross paths with a 14-foot python or startle a boisterous
parrot named Chuck.
She's already had to ride 60 feet high in a man lift to
retrieve two baby goats trapped on top of the pillar of a
bridge last year.
But that's just another day for Freeman, owner of Animal
Ed.ventures Sanctuary in Roundup, a job that is a childhood
I've been working with exotic species forever, but more
intensively in the past 15 years, Freeman said. I was
just a hobbyist, and I had bought some rare animals that
showed up in pet stores.
Freeman bought a sugar glider a small Australian marsupial
when they were a rarity in the pet trade.
I got terrible information, and she got really sick,
Freeman said. I bird-dogged my way around the nation until
I found a vet who could help me.
She didn't want the same thing to happen again to any exotic
animal. Instead, she wanted to create a safe haven for them.
Some of the pet stores were giving out information that was
not accurate and not taking the time to make the research and
make sure these animals were safe, Freeman said. I
started my own education.
About seven years ago after U.S. Department of Agriculture and
state licensing, Freeman transformed her 300-acre property
into a home for animals abandoned by their owners. With the
exception of a few structures, she built most of the
outbuildings with her own two hands and a few extra pairs
belonging to close friends.
She has plans to expand by building another
structure to house the increasing number of rescued, donated
and rehabilitated animals. The new project will cost about
As much as she loves the animals, it's not all about them.
It's also about education.
I do a lot of expanding horizons for kids, Freeman said.
I want to bring faraway places to life in a totally
different way than a textbook.
Freeman said about 16 different species are on the property
from every continent except Antarctica. The vast majority of
them were rescued, like an albino Burmese python named Lois.
Lois was a rescue from Cody, Wyo. A man eventually agreed to
sell the serpent to Freeman after she saw him walking through
a park carrying her in a gym bag.
At the time, the snake was freezing and unable to move. But
now she, along with two other pythons at the sanctuary, is
rehabilitated and a popular attraction during the tours.
A Kinkajou named Sterling and a bush baby named Piper are also
popular with children. The two are housed together in a cage
in the back of the building. During the day, they spend most
of their time napping in a fish-shaped hammock.
Perhaps one of the strangest of the creatures is a long-nosed
creature named Phoebe.
She's an anteater with a taste for raw burger.
The burger is mixed with different components to help
re-create her natural diet and provide the nutrients that
Phoebe needs. It took Freeman three months to come up with the
Freeman took similar steps with all of the animals she looks
She's the most thoughtful species I've ever worked with,
Freeman said as the animal licked the burger from her hands.
Unlike with most of the animals at the sanctuary, Freeman
actually sought out Phoebe to use her as a learning tool for
the hundreds of children and adults who tour the facility.
She had 540 tours last year and hopes to attract more visitors
this year with slumber parties and day camps.
They were all very fun and very well-received, Freeman
said. What a great opportunity for kids. Wholesome
Most of the funding to keep the sanctuary afloat comes from
donations, tour costs and Freeman's wallet.
Last summer, she had the ability to hire on an extra set of
hands, along with her daughter Sophia. But now that Sophia is
heading toward her teenage years, her interests are starting
The sanctuary is my thing, Freeman said. It's about
getting people involved and heightening awareness for the
plight of exotic pets.
Sandy Church of Rimrock Humane Society in Roundup has worked
closely with Freeman over the past seven years.
Church is more comfortable handling dogs, cats and guinea
pigs. But, whenever she gets an odd call, Freeman is the first
on Church's list to contact.
In my own neighborhood, we had a llama that someone let
loose, and he just went wild, Church said. I called her
up. She set up a pen and started feeding the llama in the pen
and finally got him loaded.
Freeman's knowledge has come in handy for more than just
renegade livestock. She was the only person who Church thought
would be able to save two baby goats perilously perched atop a
bridge pillar last September.
If anyone can figure out how to angle some goat off a
ridge, it's going to be Cory, Church said. She has so
much knowledge, and, even if she gets animals she doesn't know
about, she's a research nut and makes sure that she is feeding
them the right diet and that they are in the right
Freeman also came to the rescue during the removal of about
800 animals from a defunct animal sanctuary in Niarada. She's
taking care of a couple of the cavies from that rescue.
She's a good egg, Church said. We need more of