Disney brought the wilderness to the masses in its pioneering nature documentaries, many of which were shot here at Olympic Game Farm. Now, instead, the masses comes to the wilderness by visiting the animals at this nature preserve.
Lloyd Beebe purchased his dairy farm in 1942, and on breaks from the grueling work he would simply wander throughout his expansive property, appreciating the wildlife around. He got to know all kinds of wild animals, from grizzly bears to cougars to foxes to deer. As time went on, Lloyd was compelled to share his experiences in nature with others, so he began filming—no easy feat when the price of a film camera was about the same as a used car.
Around this time, a little company called Walt Disney Studios was entering into the nature film business with a series called “True-Life Adventures.” The series would produce some of the best known early nature documentaries, such as White Wilderness and The Vanishing Prairie. Lloyd Beebe sent some of his footage to Disney, and Walt and his son Roy liked what they saw.
When the documentarians couldn’t get the footage they needed in the wild, they came to Olympic Game Farm In order to safely get the footage they needed of the animals, most of them had to be tamed and trained. Over the years, Lloyd had collected strays and orphaned animals on the farm, which he and his wife Patty rehabilitated. But when Disney wanted to film cougars, Lloyd spent days tracking wild juvenile. He also slept in a wolverine den for a time, acclimating the dangerous creatures to human presence. After days of talking to them, the wolverines would eat a cracked egg from Lloyd’s palm Once they were ready Disney could come in to shoot.
Walt Disney died in 1965, and Disney’s nature films mostly died along with him. The Beebes’ employment as nature documentarians dried up, but they couldn’t abandon the many rare and endangered animals they had rehabilitated over the years. To continue funding their conservation efforts, the Beebes opened their doors to the public in the early 1970s.
Today, visitors can drive through the expansive preserve to come face to face with animals common and not so common. The Beebes offer up close experiences with animals unattainable at zoos or other preserves. Elk, sika and fallow deer, llamas, zebras, wolves, foxes, big cats, bison, emu, prairie dogs, and peacocks are just some of the animals that live on Olympic Game Farm. Grizzly bears wave their massive paws at passing cars. Bison have been known to stick their heads in the open windows of parked cars in the hopes of winning a prized piece of whole wheat bread.