He’s the elusive goat that for years has captured the affection of thousands who traveled Interstate 65 routinely spotting him as they passed the Sonora Exit 81 near Elizabethtown. Whenever he was caught, he always escaped, thus the name.
Houdini watched drivers pass by and they watched him. Sometimes he stood on top of the guardrail; other times he wandered onto the highway to gawk at an accident. If he wasn’t there, people worried about what may have happened to him. He became so popular that a Facebook page was begun in his name, where 36,000 people shared photos of his spottings and posts about “a true living legend in Hardin County, Houdini the Goat,” as the page says.
In October 2018, Houdini suffered a broken leg during a traffic mishap when a car slammed up against a guardrail. Injured, the Hardin County Animal Shelter took him in. Soon there was an outpouring of concern and questions, as well as donations, from the public about Houdini’s welfare and what would happen to him.
Many voiced suggestions saying he should be returned to his home along I-65—“Free Houdini”—while others said he needed to go somewhere safer. Many volunteered to take Houdini in. Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Guston and served by Meade County RECC, heard about his plight and offered to become his permanent caretaker.
After a lengthy interview process by the board of directors at the county shelter, Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization that takes in injured or abused animals from across Kentucky, was chosen. Houdini moved there in January.
Lydia Stephens, who leads tours at Broadbent, says “all staff care for him, but his main handler is Ms. (Mary Ann) Tobin, our founder (also a former state representative and former state auditor). She is down there visiting, giving him treats, petting his head and talking to him every day.” Still, they have no plans to turn Houdini into a pet. He will live out his days in peace and safety.
How’s Houdini’s health?
Houdini was initially cared for through the Hardin County Animal Shelter and splinting was used to heal his front limb fracture, Stephens explains. “Houdini’s leg has healed, although he’ll probably always walk with a limp. When splinting is used the risk of not establishing correct anatomical alignment is enevitable,” she says.
No further surgical intervention is planned. Stephens says the veterinarian reports, “Since he is moving as well as expected, the risk of surgery and anesthesia at this time outweighs the benefits of surgical intervention.”
After being at Broadbent for a month, Houdini is settling in nicely. Stephens says, “He has calmed down significantly since his first few days with us. We think he has got used to the area and feels a little bit more at home.”
The 185-pound Houdini has 5 fenced acres of “big open field with a wooded area on both sides,” Stephens explains. Yet, he hangs close to what seems to remind him of home—the large electrical posts, minus the traffic.
Houdini is currently alone in his enclosure but is only separated by a fence from the sanctuary’s seven other goats. “The idea is for them to get introduced slowly over time and then integrate them later,” says Stephens.
Stephens says, “Ruminants are difficult to accurately age once adults. By his condition one estimate of 4 to 6 years old may be appropriate.”
He is offered a variety of food and his diet has been revamped to ensure ultimate health. Stephens says, “Male goats are prone to urinary stones with high grain and certain forages like alfalfa. We have developed a list of staples and suitable snacks. Also, we want to ensure healthy weight not only for urine stone risk but also mobility for his healed fractured limb.”
What’s a normal day like for Houdini now? “His typical day is not much different than it was when he was living on I-65. The main difference of course, there’s no traffic going 70-80 mph a few feet away from him. He grazes and observes all that is around him,” says Stephens.
The vets taking care of Houdini
Several vets have collaborated to care for Houdini including Dr. Perpich with the Hardin County Animal Shelter, Dr. Chooljian and Dr. Harris.
Dr. Candice Wardrip is currently overseeing Houdini’s care. A 2011 graduate from the University of Illinois, she came to Kentucky after graduation and now calls Hardinsburg home. Dr. Wardrip oversees care of the wildlife and emergencies at Broadbent and has her own mobile vet service outside the sanctuary. Dr. Wardrip cares for many types of critters.
More about Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary
Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary was founded by Kentucky state legislator Mary Ann Tobin in 2002, and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that cares for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife throughout the state of Kentucky.
The sanctuary relies on donations from the pubic to continue their work and does not receive any state or federal funding. Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses 4,600 acres in Meade County located in Guston.
Tax-deductible donations support a hospital and animal sanctuary with a veterinarian and 22 staff caring for approximately 140 healing or abused animals, which are a mixture of patients and permanent residents from all across Kentucky.
All donations are tax-deductible, you can donate to Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary by going online at www.broadbentwildlife.org.
What do you do if you find wildlife in trouble?
If a person finds sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in need of assistance, first call the sanctuary for advice at (270) 547-4200. Broadbent staff answer phones 365 days a year and do answer calls 24 hours a day.
Stephens says, “Mainly good Samaritans will call concerned about a wild animal and we will start to figure out what is going on. We will first ask if the caller could bring us the animal safely or we can come pick up anywhere in the state.” She stresses, that the sanctuary “only accepts animals found in Kentucky. We are not legally allowed to intake animals from outside of Kentucky.”
Need a Houdini fix?
Schedule a tour at Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary in Guston for $5 (free for children under 5). You can receive a guided tour, where you’ll get to see Houdini, but because they care for sick and injured animals, visitors are not allowed to pet or play with the animals.
To schedule a tour, call the sanctuary at (270) 547-4200 and ask for Lydia. Tours are scheduled for the visitor’s convenience, but the optimum start time for tours is between noon and 2 p.m., seven days a week. (Tours are subject to change for prescheduled Education Programs.) Onsite tours can last from 1-2 hours depending on pace of walk and questions.
Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary also offers an educational program called R.A.R.E, Raptors and Rehabbers Educating, which travels the state to different events or organizations with talks about the Educational Raptors (birds of prey) at Broadbent and the different species and their importance to our ecosystem. Donations are requested to cover travel expenses and vary depending on distance and animal expense. Those programs can last 1-2 hours as well.
Interested in volunteering?
Broadbent also welcomes volunteers. They ask that volunteers call in the spring, when things really pick up due to baby season. Stephens says, “Volunteers can expect to clean A LOT, but also help with some feedings—mainly birds—and also out on the farm too.”
Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary
Street Address: 100 Guston-Bewleyville Road in Guston, Kentucky
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 387, Irvington, KY 40146
Facebook: Broadbent Wildlife