Lions are roaring just up the road from my Mount Vernon home




When I go out to get the newspaper in the morning, I can hear the lions roaring. Must be feeding time at DEW Animal Haven, just a mile from my Mount Vernon home. The Haven is an amazing place, and is amazingly featured now in a series called Yankee Jungle on the Animal Planet.





posterAfter a few shows last fall proved to be popular, Animal Planet scheduled a new series of shows for 2016. The first show of 2016 was aired last Saturday and shows will continue to air on Saturdays at 9 pm through February and into March. You can watch the 2015 shows too, on Amazon instant video, easily accessed through the haven’s website: which also has information about the facility, animals, and visiting opportunities. The haven is closed for the winter and will reopen on May 9. DEW Haven has given Mount Vernon a boost, for sure. Since the initial series of shows on Animal Planet, people from all over the world have been coming here to see the critters, staying at a local inn and eating in our wonderful café.

another catBob Miner, who grew up with me in Winthrop, started DEW in 1980, following a series of debilitating strokes, the result of his service in Vietnam. At first he just had farm animals but eventually got into rescuing Maine wildlife and taking in exotic animals. Bob and Julie hit it off when she volunteered there with her two daughters Hannah and Heidi in 1994, and six months later they got married, eventually moving to their present location which includes their house, right in the middle of the haven. Step out on their deck and you look down into the pen of the lions. Exciting!

catsAnd speaking of lions, years ago when Bob was seeking a federal permit for his lions, he was required to organize a squad to respond if a lion escaped. It didn’t take me long to volunteer to lead that squad! For years I prayed for a lion to get loose, so I could round up my hunting buddies and get after it. Alas, none have ever escaped.

One year a friend from Portland came up to hunt, and I told him that a pair of mountain lions had been cited in Mount Vernon, and to be alert for them. As we were hunting through my bog in a thick cluster of alders and small firs, DEW’s lions started roaring. I looked back and my friend’s eyes were bulging out of his head. “Be ready,” I whispered. Later, at lunch, I told him that the lions were caged up at DEW. I don’t understand it, but he never hunted my woodlot with me again!

bearThe haven is home to over 200 animals from all over the world. Of course, they have Maine bears, deer, and more, and I’ve seen Bob in the bears’ pen, enjoying the cubs. Don’t try that at home! I remember one visit where he stationed me under the Camel, which then drooled on me. He got quite a laugh out of that.

Bob and Julie have a relationship with every animal at DEW, each of which is given a name based on their personality. They especially enjoy the groups of children who arrive in buses to visit the haven each spring and fall.


signI can only warn you to give a wide birth to the Hyenas. One time I had a grandson Addi along and a Hyena, in his cage, followed Addi as he walked past the cage. The Hyena’s eyes told me he would have loved to eat Addi for lunch. A very scary beast, for sure.

But that’s one thing you will actually enjoy at DEW Haven. You’ll see these animals up close, and if Bob’s along, you may find yourself in their pen!

Bob also provides another public service, picking up dead deer that have been killed by motor vehicles within 50 miles of Mount Vernon, to feed his animals.

Bob and Julie

I appreciate the mission statement of DEW Haven: To provide a safe haven for animals, and to promote society’s education regarding their wellness, respect, and conservation. They do that with love for each and every animal, and often with a sense of humor too.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.