Petting Zoo CDA CLAIRE

There's a new attraction in Coeur d'Alene that's probably not like anything you've ever seen before.

A new petting zoo has opened, but we're not just talking about your traditional barnyard animals.

The owner of Big Red's Barn, Jeannene Christ, runs the camel rides and petting zoos at the fair in the summer, but her animals needed something to do the rest of the year.

"These are long winters up here," Christ told us, "I wanted to have all my animals indoors."

Big Red's Barn has chickens, goats, a pig named Bob, (who's a girl) a miniature donkey who loves taking selfies, and even a llama.

Look further, and you'll meet two zebus, (they're cousins) a wallaby, two Patagonian Maras, and a capybara named Hector. Capybaras, if you're not familiar, are the world's largest rodent, and are native to South America.

Beyond the cute and cuddly, you'll find the reptile room, with tortoises, a bearded dragon named Little Richard, a tegu, Lilith the python, and even a tarantula.

Some of the animals belong to Christ, some are on loan from other zoos, and a few have moved in because their former owners didn't realize how much responsibility a pet can be.

But the barn also features other "visitors" from time to time. Christ brings in other experts who have a variety of other animals you can meet. She says they're also working to have visiting sloths, otters, and armadillos.

While most of these critters are perfectly happy munching on free veggie snacks all day, if they need some "me time," they have quiet spaces where they can take a break.

The petting zoo also asks that for each child who comes in, there's an adult with them.

With that rule, it's clear the animals and the families who stop by are loving it.

"It's all smiles in here," explained Christ. "A lot of kids who are afraid and clinging to mom, and mom's having to carry them, within about 20 minutes, that's probably the longest it takes, and the kid's on the floor interacting. We never have a kid walk out of here in mom's arms. Really the only crying kids we have is because they don't want to leave."

Big Red's Barn is open to the public Thursday through Sunday. They're also available for special events and fieldtrips. For more information about hours, tickets and season passes, you can visit their website, bigredsbarn.com or check them out on their Facebook page, Big Red's Barn - 7397 N Government Way CDA.

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