The Dakota Zoo, located in Bismarck ND, was founded in 1961 by Marc & Betty Christianson with the help of a host of dedicated volunteers. The Dakota Zoo opened its gates on June 3, 1961 on 15 acres of developed land, with 75 mammals and 23 birds, and 40,000 visitors passed through the gates that first year. Today, thanks to the continued support of members, visitors, donors and volunteers, the Dakota Zoo has grown to a 90 acre facility housing 600 animals, birds, reptiles and fish representing 125 species and visited by more than 150,000 people each year.
We were quite impressed with the layout & I think we probably walked about 40 of those 90 acres! Just kidding, but it was a large area to walk. Fortunately it was a beautiful day, overcast for most of it which made the temperature totally wonderful. A light breeze, falling leaves & the call of the wild made it all the better! I'm going to include a map so that if you get in the area you might like to have an idea of the layout of this zoo. It would be handicapped friendly & there is a small train ride for $2.50 most of the time which apparently gives folks an idea of what they want to concentrate their visit on off alighting. It wasn't going to run today until 4pm because, get this, "all of the train conductors are in school right now"!!!!! LOL We considered coming back just to ride it but ultimately decided our 4 hours spent there were enough. Anyway, below is a list of everything we covered today & it is quite a list! We had a wonderful day for sure :)
Ungulates are mostly housed in the southern part of the zoo in large, open enclosures. Animals in this area included goats, pigs, miniature horses, miniature donkeys, highland cattle, bison, pronghorn, Przewalski's horse, Bactrian camel, Dall sheep, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, reindeer, longhorn cattle, Clydesdale horses, and elk. Llama, mouflon, and Aoudad are in the North East section of the zoo.
Predators were housed in the northern part of the zoo, and included tigers, snow leopards, wolves, bears, lynx, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, badgers, and servals.
Birds were housed in a variety of smaller enclosures and aviaries, mostly in the center of the zoo, and included eagles, emus, many South American birds, turkey vultures, wild turkeys, owls, and various water birds.
Monkeys were mostly housed near the center of the zoo, and included cotton-top tamarins, Goeldi’s monkey, golden-headed lion tamarin, pygmy marmoset, red ruffed lemurs, Squirrel Monkeys, white-fronted marmosets. Spider monkey are in their own outdoor enclosure.
The zoo also includes an exhibit of reptiles and small mammals, a butterfly house and a prairie dog town. I was a bit disappointed that the butterfly house was already closed for the season. There were a couple of young men getting a bit too risky with the prairie dogs as far as trying to hand feed them. I was worried one of them might take a bite of his finger. It did scratch him at one point. Silly guy!
And finally a brief comment. Larry & I have mixed feelings about zoos. We just hate to see anything wild held captive. However, there are cases when a zoo houses animals which have been rescued and/or caught in vulnerable situations so they can live out their life in safety, as well as breeding programs designed to stabilize endangered species with huge success. Ideally it would be better if no animals were in captivity but often it is necessary for their preservation. Obviously the zoos ethics play a big role in this. We spoke to a young lady who was handling feeding of the wolves & big cats today. She obviously cared very deeply for 'her animals' & explained that many were orphans & others had been born at the zoo & knew no other way of living. The animals we saw her interact with obviously were happy to see her, and her food too of course!
Bottom line, we love to see as many different kinds of animals as possible, and a zoo is really the only way to do it because we certainly don't have the money to visit Africa or Asia or South America. We watch these animals with wonder and fascination. Just saying...:)