CHICAGO -- You'll see some wild things in Lorin Womack's back yard.
There are the African pygmy goats and the buffalo, of course, and the deer playing around the rock piles where the Asian mountain sheep climb. And row after row of cages, housing everything from silver foxes and llamas to hairless pigs and porcupines.
Not to mention the lions and tigers and bears.
"I've always liked that, having whatever unusual animals I could get my hands on," said Womack, exotic-animal lover and proprietor of the "Land O' Lorin" pet collection in Batavia, Ill. "When I was a kid, I always had whatever animals you could have -- monkeys and snakes, you know -- without special permits. But I always wanted more."
And more he has indeed. The 39-year-old tree trimmer's back yard contains 130 permanent wildlife residents, and it is one of the most popular places around every Sunday.
Parents may bring their children for the day to Lorin's 10-acre farm property, where he lets them come in and wander in the transcontinental jungle he has created. There they can watch Womack play with his Bengal and Siberian tigers, his black-maned lion and Bear, the 15-month-old, 200-pound black bear he has nursed from infancy.
"They can pay whatever they want," said Womack, who runs his own tree service out of his home, mostly to make enough money to support his animal habit. "They can stay however long, just as long as they enjoy it."
Some enjoy it so much that they have pursued Womack as the guru of the wild kingdom, as did friend Art Hejka, who earlier this year bought a baby Bengal tiger of his own.
After convincing Womack he was a genuine cat-lover and not just a one-timer who would tire of the pet, Hejka enlisted Womack's help in designing a temporary garage cage and a feeding plan.
"Everybody's got their own thing they do," said the new convert. "I guess this is mine."
Womack is doing everything he can to fight the term "roadside zoo" he's been stuck with since he first obtained the exhibition permit the State of Illinois requires him to have to tend the exotic animals of his taste.
Even though the Bengal is an endangered species -- and many animal-rights activists and professional zookeepers contest his right to have it -- Womack can keep it if he meets U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements for storage conditions and exhibits it a couple of times a year.
"I'd do it anyway," said Womack, who considers the animals his "kids" and the children who come to visit "their friends."
For the admission donation, visitors may watch the round-the-clock feedings that cost Womack about $3,000 a month. Children love to watch Womack and his four hired hands drain grain from the towering corn bins the Department of Agriculture required him to build before issuing his owner's permit.
Feeders stand at the edge of the buffalo fence, for example, and toss handful after handful "Why name them?" asks Womack, when they come running en masse every time the feeder yells "woolly bully." "That's a favorite. And people driving by are getting pretty used to seeing them."
Also a hit with Land O' Lorin patrons is the feeding in the monkey cages, when the snow macaques and vervets are at their theatrical best.
And while breeding the animals is an option both he and Hejka have considered to bypass ownership restrictions or to help pay for their care, Womack said his one-of-a-kind collection is not something he is trying to encourage.
"I don't want everybody doing it. Everybody doesn't know how," he said. And even though animal-rights activists -- concerned over this year's revelation that a supplier to the San Diego Zoo was also supplying a gaming farm -- are wary of private citizens and amateurs owning wild animals, Womack insists they're after the same thing.
"I want to take care of them," he said. "I just want them to have a home."