It all began 1920 when the Gilcrease family of four moved from Reno, Nevada to live their dream here in the Las Vegas Valley. Leonard and Elda Gilcrease used an inheritance Elda had received, to buy a 1500-acre parcel of land, upon which they hoped to build a new home and a new way of life. Along with their two sons, Bill and Ted, the family came to settle into traditional ranching life.
Unfortunately, after facing many hardships, Leonard Gilcrease left his family to pursue other possible opportunities. This forced Elda to carry on alone building a traditional family life for her and her two sons, and to teach them to respect and value nature and it’s resources. Over the years, the Gilcrease ranching operation came to include livestock, pastureland with various crops, and several large orchards. Fortunately, the bounty resulting from the Gilcrease’s hard work provided much-needed logistic resources to the military and local businesses, which proved instrumental in the early growth of Las Vegas.
Elda Gilcrease never remarried, and until she passed away in 1968, she completely dedicated her life to their ranch, and to properly raising Bill and Ted. Eventually, Bill developed a deep fondness and concern for animals, specifically the birds. One of Bill’s fondest memory was when he was 9 years and discovered a cubby of quail while playing. One of the baby quail had been abandoned so Bill took it home and asked his mother if he could take care of the bird. To his surprise, his mother said yes. This event became the genesis of his life -long interest in birds and his expertise in hand raising quail. His brother Ted had a greater interest in the operations of the ranch and continued growth of the orchards. Over time, the family donated and sold parts of their land to other interests, one such donation including what would become the non – profit Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary.
On March 19, 2010, tragedy struck the sanctuary aviaries, as a fire tore through the facility, fanned by 50mph winds. Upon seeing the fire, many members of the neighboring community raced to help save as many animals as possible. The outcome was still devastating, resulting in the demise of 200 birds, and the Gilcrease family dog, Zapato. Slowly, but surely, the sanctuary staff eventually came to grips with this terrible loss of life. With the help of caring people such as yourself, they now collectively look forward to a bright and prosperous new future for the surviving residents of the Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary.
Sadly, Ted passed away in 2003. Bill, who turned 95 in 2014, continues dedicating himself to the successful operation of the orchards, as well as to the improvement and longevity of the nature sanctuary’s mission, facilities and operations. In 1970, Bill officially founded the Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary, which is now a non – profit 501(c)3 dedicated to providing safe-haven for animals of all types. The sanctuary’s board-of-directors, staff and volunteers are equally dedicated to providing quality care to needy animals, and to providing ever-expanding educational and recreational activities for the public.