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Wild side of Salina, Kansas, attraction came from Manteca

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POSTED March 16, 2009 3:30 a.m.
What does Manteca have in common with Salina, Kansas?
Nothing, actually.
But there’s a bit of Manteca in Salina. That’s really a gross understatement though. Thirty-nine truckloads of exotic stuff from Manteca are now part of Salina’s world-famous Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure. Just a bit of clarification. The stuffed stuff, literally, that was hauled off to Dorothy’s home state about 11 years ago took off from the now-defunct wildlife museum in Stockton, but the collection belonged to the late Jack Perry of Manteca who owned and operated the museum.
Perry was a taxidermist by profession, but through the years he acquired a nice collection of preserved wildlife trophies which later evolved into a museum, says his wife Janice Perry.
Among the exotic animals that took the cross-country trip to its new home in the Midwest was an impressive pachyderm specimen. It was a mounted elephant which, Perry said, was given to her late husband “by some hunter who just wanted to donate it” to the museum. That’s exactly how her husband’s museum came to be. Avid hunters he knew who wanted to have their hunting trophies stuffed and/or mounted invariably gave him some of these animals, she said. There were so many of them she couldn’t even put an exact figure to the collection that her husband, who was also an avid hunter and angler, sold or gave away to what was then the Salina Wildlife Refuge, now known as the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, when he decided to retire in 1998. A year later, the year before Jack Perry died, Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure opened its doors to the public.
Today, the Rolling Hills major attraction has “grown from a humble refuge housing 45 species to a respected zoo, home to 105 species of animals,” according to the web site of this major tourist destination. Through the years, new animals exhibits and a wildlife museum have also been added.
Several major events are on tap this year as Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure celebrates its 10th anniversary. To find out more about these events plus dates and admission fees, log on to www.rollinghillswildlife.com.
Janice Perry said she has seen the place where husband’s collection are now delighting thousands of visitors every year.
“It’s a beautiful museum,” she said.
The live zoo is also a must-see part of Rolling Hills, she added.
She and her late husband were longtime members of the community. While her husband pursued his hunting and fishing hobbies while operating his taxidermy business, Janice devoted her time to her own passion — teaching. She started out as a teacher’s aide at New Haven School. After she obtained her teaching certificate, she went to work at French Camp School and later at the George MacParland Elementary School in Manteca. She mainly taught special ed students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
In 2006, after 23 years in the teaching profession, she retired. But that was not the end of her classroom experience. Like many retired teachers, she continued to work as a substitute teacher.
None of the Perrys’ four children followed in the professional footsteps of their parents. Their oldest son, Alan, is in charge of the Animal Control program in Stockton. Son Stuart who lives in Elk Grove just sold his management business and now works as a consultant for the outfit that bought him out. Only daughter Karen works as a marriage, family and children’s counselor. She and her husband, who is a substance abuse counselor in Antioch, live in Petaluma. Youngest sibling Eric, who also lives in Stockton, is a correctional officer in Jackson.
Janice said she is the proud grandmother of five grandchildren — “all boys,” she happily said.
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