Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Safari! -- Wed., Mar. 27

Hat? Check. Water? Check. Coat? Check. Exotic animals? Yes. Camera? Check. Land Rover? Nope. Gun? No. Food? Later.

Hey! What kind of safari is this anyway? A south central Texas Exotic Wildlife Tour, that's what.

Today required a 7:30 a.m. start for the two-hour drive out to Y.O. Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. The goal? To photograph over 50 species of exotic animals from all over the world and to learn about the history of the ranch. Our two-hour group tour cost $32.95 each and included a chuckwagon lunch. Bob and I did this tour a year ago and we loved it. He did not go with my mom, sis and I as he had surgery to remove skin cancer this morning.

We made it to the ranch as requested at 9:45 a.m. to pay for the tour. At exactly 10:00 a.m. our school bus painted in giraffe camouflage colors left the parking lot. The bus bumped and rattled up and down a hill on the way to our first locked gate. Apparently the locks on the gates had just been changed from numbered combination locks to keyed locks. Our tour driver forgot the key. Oops.

Our driver/guide, Burna, telling us she forgot the key.
Back down the hill we bounced over the gravel and rocky road. She rearranged our tour to see the historic lodge first instead of last. While she was telling us the history and lay of the land, someone from the office brought over the gate key. She finished telling us about the buildings in the resort area and we were on our way.

Auodad from Africa, one of the first exotic animals
introduced to YO Ranch.
Spotted Axis deer.
The bar with fireplace reflected in the mirror.
See story below.
The above-pictured bull is from Africa. Normally the horns grow upward; however, this bull was born with horns facing downward. YO Ranch built special water and feed troughs to accommodate his horns. Wasn't that nice of them? This bull lived a long life and died a natural death.

Our driver had to go back up the rocky road to the gate. This time she unlocked it and we watched rheas up the road. The rhea is a flightless bird from South America. The male builds the nest and sits on the eggs. He may find a surrogate male to sit on the eggs while he goes out in search of more females.

Rheas can be gray or white and look similar to ostriches or emus.
The first paddock we came to had a plethora of different exotics. My sister, Jan, loves giraffes. Our guide spent quite a bit of time by the giraffes. A number of people, including Jan, were able to feed cookies to the giraffe. One man even got a giraffe "kiss."

Red deer (Europe, Caucasus Mountains, Asia) losing winter coats.
Blackbuck antelope does (India)
Two-year old giraffe
Momma giraffe
Close-up of female giraffe.
Mouflon sheep (?)
Beisa oryx (East Africa)
Wildebeest mom and calves.
Four horned sheep
Blackbuck male (India)
Ostrich in foreground; emu in background
After leaving the giraffe/wildebeest paddock, our tour continued in a paddock with larger acreage. Again we saw many animals.

Scimitar-horned oryx (extinct in the wild since 2000)
Greater Kudu (East Africa)
Ellipsen waterbuck (Africa)
Dama gazelle
Giant eland (East and Southern Africa)
Giant eland
Dama gazelle visits the tour bus.
Sika deer (East Asia)
Our driver explained to us that the school district for their area is the wealthiest school district in the nation. Grades K-6 have about 18 students. Instead of buying a large school bus, the school district bought a limousine. How about that? Little kids get picked up and dropped off by limo. 

At the end of our Exotic Wildlife Tour, we had a chuckwagon lunch consisting of sliced top sirloin, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, a roll and almond cake. Very hearty and tasty.

Our next stop on today's itinerary was South Llano River State Park outside Junction, Texas. This state park is a birder's paradise in the spring and fall. Wild turkeys roost in the trees by the river at night. Here you can see some of nature's gorgeous brightly colored birds: painted bunting, vermilion flycatcher, and yellow-cheeked warbler.

When we drove in the entrance road to the park, my mom no sooner said, "Oh, I'd love to see a wild turkey," when we saw eight! There were two toms vying for the attention of six hens. The toms were in full display with tail feathers spread to the max and their chests puffed out as big as they could go. The dominant, large tom kept himself between the young tom and the hens. I wish I had remembered to take a photo. We watched them for about five minutes. Quite the show.

At the Visitor Center, we saw a black-chinned hummingbird. Off to a bird blind we went. No painted buntings have showed up yet this year. The wildflowers haven't bloomed (not enough rain apparently). We did see a few birds...


Pine siskin or yellow-rumped warbler or Cassin's finch??
Eastern kingbird
Song sparrow?
House finch
Yellow-rumped warbler?
House finch

Lark bunting?
Cardinal bathing
The following bird used to be lumped in with the Eastern towhee and both were called rufous-sided towhees. The two bird species have now been named individually.

Spotted towhee
Spotted towhee.
All of a sudden our peaceful bird watching drew to a close. The birds shrieked off as we saw a hawk swoop in hunting the little birds. The birds did not come back. We headed over to another bird blind. There weren't as many birds at the second blind.

Definitely not a bird! Cool lizard, though.
Brown-headed cowbird.

Black-crested titmouse.
A very thirsty Inca dove.
Tufted titmouse

Goldfinch? Wilson's warbler? Anyone know?
Bird blind
Lots of turkeys at this time of year.

Trail from campground to bird blind. See how winter-like it still looks?
It was 3:30 p.m. when we left South Llano State Park. On the way back to San Antonio we took a scenic route through Hunt and Ingram along the Guadalupe River.

Long day, but a wonderful time.

Travel Bug, Mom and Jan out.


  1. Thanks for a wonderful tour. I really enjoyed your pictures. We have a similar place here in Oregon called Wildlife Safari. Visitors are allowed to drive their own cars through the compound and the animals roam free. We love going there. If we are ever in Texas, I would definitely visit the Y.O. Ranch. Great post.

    1. We lived in Oregon for over 30 years and have been to Wildlife Safari a couple of times, mostly when our kids were young.

      Y.O. Ranch is not just for Exotic Game Tours. The exotic animals are bred and the population allowed to increase. Many of the animals are endangered or extinct. In some instances animals born and raised at Y.O.Ranch are shipped back to their native countries.

      Y.O. Ranch is also a big game hunting ranch. Controlled hunts of exotic species are allowed. Hunters pay a high price for hunting trophy animals. Many ranches in Texas have exotic animal hunts, but the ranchers make sure to keep their herds strong.

  2. I hope Bob is doing ok.

    I enjoyed your trip today. I love the giraff and the picture of the zebra is way cute! I so enjoyed the tufted titmouse every summer when we had a S&Bs backyard with feeders.

  3. Bob is doing fine. He's very fair skinned and has had to have many skin cancers frozen off. He hadn't been to the doctor for a while so some of the skin cancers got pretty big. He has had two large ones removed in the past couple of months requiring a number of stitches. The current one removed was on his face just in front of his ear.

    Thanks for asking.

  4. Glad to hear Bob is doing okay. Sounds like a great tour. Have you ever been to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch just north of San Antonio? I was just wondering how they compared.

  5. We have not been to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. When we were in Kerrville last year, we asked the locals about exotic game ranch tours. Two separate individuals recommended YO Ranch, and that's where we went. We like the recommendation of the people who live in the area.

  6. Y'all sure did a whirl wind tour of the Hill Country for Mom and Sister! Thanks for the ideas to add to my list: at the top is Comal Springs in New Braunfels!


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