Lynn Stark, founder and owner of Samsara Exotic Animal Refuge, cares for a llama, one of the more than 150 animals living at the refuge.

Drive 12 miles from Milford down the County Road, past the densely packed pines of Sunkhaze Meadows Wildlife Preserve and into Greenfield Township, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the animals talking.

Bleats, coos, thumps, barks, neighs, and even a howl, perhaps, from the nearly 150 creatures in residence on the 20 acres of Samsara Exotic Animal Refuge. You’ll be carefully supervised by Sherman and Roamin, two enormous Turkish Kangal dogs, the refuge’s guardians who (as long as you’re respectful of the animals) are otherwise as gentle and sweet-natured as dogs can be.

Samsara and its caretakers, including founder Lynn Stark, her daughters Keri, Fawn, Georgie and Kimmie, and several volunteers, has for more than 30 years provided a home for unusual homeless animals, given up for a variety of reasons, be they financial or health problems, the death of the owner, or lack of interest or inexperience in caring for a particular type of animal.

Traditional animal shelters and humane societies are usually unequipped to care for animals other than common household pets, which is where Samsara comes in. The refuge is often the last resort for Maine families at a loss for what to do with unwanted or unaffordable animals. Up until a few years ago, Samsara was primarily a home for smaller animals, but since 2014, the refuge has begun to take on larger creatures.

“One morning we found a goat tied to the front gate,” said Fawn Stark. “Somebody just left it there, all by itself. Thank God we were here, or else who knows what would have happened to it… There are folks out there that just cannot care for their animals any longer, and if we can take them, we will.”

In addition to farm animals, there are birds, reptiles, rodents, rabbits and other small furry and feathered creatures. A number of dogs and cats also live on the property. There’s a resident emu. There’s even a wolf, an animal it’s illegal to keep, but can live out the rest of its days in safety at a non-profit, registered organization like Samsara.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Lynn Stark. “What else would I be doing? It’s hard work, yes, but I can’t imagine not doing it.”

All these creatures, however, require lots of care and feeding, and especially require space — outdoor, as well as indoor, the latter of which is in high demand at Samsara. Presently, only the smallest creatures are housed inside, while the big animals are kept outside year-round. There’s also no place to store large amounts of hay and other feed, which means Samsara has to constantly restock its supply of food during the colder months.

That’s why Samsara will host a fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 21 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Old Town, to raise money to build a proper barn at the refuge, as well as supplement the refuge’s food and medicine supply. The “barn” dance will be held from noon to 7 p.m., with bands performing including 5 Wheel Drive, the Ian Black Band, the Tyler Healy Band, the Allison Ames Band, the Barn Dogs, Country Boots, the Rick Carter Band and Country Camo. The suggested donation will be $10; there will also be a bake sale and silent auction.

“For a lot of years they didn’t need a barn, but now that they have two llamas, three alpacas, goats, horses, a donkey, well, they just have to have one,” said Randy Blevins, a longtime family friend of the Starks that is helping to organize the fundraiser. “It’s going to take about $10,000 to build it. They’ll be able to store the hay and the water and better shelter the big animals. They had to turn away a camel last year. It just about broke Lynn’s heart.”

Samsara is open to the public by appointment only; those that wish to visit the refuge can call 852-4372 to set up a time. If you are unable to attend Sunday’s fundraiser, Samsara also has a GoFundMe page online at

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.