Written by ZooMontana Volunteer, Mary Alice.
Two animals new to our zoo are Scout, the Eastern Screech Owl, and Ivy, the mink. Scout came to us from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman. His left eye was damaged, so their staff was concerned that he would not be able to hunt to survive in the wild. Ivy the mink came to us as a baby and is being trained to be an animal ambassador for the zoo. She is 3 months old (July). Her habitat has a water slide for her to play in. See both of our newest animals in the Nature Center as you start your tour of the ZooMontana grounds.
Our zoo is not only popular for folks to visit to see our northern latitude animals, but also is a popular place for visitors to walk to enjoy being outdoors. We have a number of regular visitors who come here to walk, from young mothers with small children in strollers to older couples who enjoy the peace and quiet of our wooded grounds.
When you are out on the grounds of ZooMontana, there are many thing to see in addition to the animals. Because we are in a wooded setting, there are animals on grounds that are not part of our zoo collection. You might see them or see some evidence of them. Look around as you walk the trails for some of the natives.
For example, if you are fortunate to be here early in the mornings before the crowds of folks arrive, you might see the red fox near Wolf Woods. He might be wandering along the trails or crossing Wolf Bridge as he hunts for food.
If you look over the railing of Wolf Bridge at the mud flat on the flood plain of Canyon Creek, you will probably see many raccoon tracks and an occasional great blue heron footprint. We have even seen a frog on the edge of the mudflat.
From that same vantage point you can see a downed log on the bank across from the mud flat. It has been chewed by the wild beavers, and there is a pile of wood chips cascading down the slope.
Most of you who have been here before have seen the wild turkeys from the neighborhood flock strolling around the grounds. You can often see one near the entrance to the Homestead displaying his tail. You may also be able to hear their distinct call.
You may also see people inside the barrier fences at the animal exhibits. They are zoo staff or volunteers doing their jobs. The barrier fences provide a safety margin for both the visitors and the animals. Often volunteers are behind the barrier fences to remove noxious or undesirable weeds that grow at ZooMontana. Please respect the barrier fences and stay on the visitors side for your safety and the safety of our animals.
One of the weeds that we are working to eradicate is houndstongue, a relative of forget-me-nots. It came to the U.S. as an impurity in seeds brought by northern European settlers. Each flower produces four seeds about the size of a lentil covered with velcro-like hooks. When it gets into animal fur it is difficult to remove. For that reason keepers and volunteers occasionally enter the wolf enclosure to remove any houndstongue growing there.
We look forward to your next visit. Enjoy our zoo animals and the surprises that Mother Nature has in store for you.