Feb 122012

To prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce aggression among the goats in the walk-in contact area the young males were routinely castrated. One year a new method was used: elastic bands placed on the base of the scrotum. The bands cut off circulation and the entire scrotum simply atrophied and fell off. Although this sounds horrible, it was supposedly a fairly painless method.

None of the keepers, however, could recall ever finding one of the scrotums. It’s possible that they were swept up unnoticed during the regular cleaning, but keepers always wondered if it wasn’t possible that some lucky children took home special souvenirs of their trip to the zoo.

Feb 112012

Keepers in the children’s zoo were attempting to catch a nighttime marauder that was killing their chickens and waterfowl. One keeper in particular was determined to get the animal, suspected to be a large raccoon. When live traps near the bird areas failed to catch it he spent several nights in the zoo with a shotgun. That was no more successful.

Then one morning a live trap at the other end of the children’s zoo was found sprung but empty. The keeper figured that his hunt would soon be successful. The next few mornings, however, gave the same result: the trap was sprung and the bait was gone, but the trap was empty. Each day the keeper became more excited—a raccoon that could reach the bait in the large live trap but still stick out far enough to prevent the trap door from closing must be a giant. And he was going to catch it!

He was rather disappointed a few nights later when another keeper got a look at the “monster raccoon.” One of the working dogs, a border collie, jumped out of the dog yard, wriggled his head and shoulders into the live trap, and cleaned up the meat in the live trap. Then, his evening snack finished, he nonchalantly returned to his enclosure.

Editors Note:
The keepers didn’t think that the border collie was responsible for killing the birds, only that he figured out a way to get an extra midnight snack. The “killer raccoon” was never caught although the night-time killings stopped soon after.

Feb 112012

Like many young animals, the young black-faced gray kangaroo in the children’s zoo spent a lot of time frisking around. One day he apparently zigged when he should have zagged and sailed over the low fence surrounding his yard and landed in the arms of a woman standing nearby.

The woman was so surprised to find herself suddenly holding a kangaroo that she took a step backwards, knocking her own baby, who was strapped into a stroller, into a shallow duck pond. The baby and stroller were about half submerged, although, fortunately, the child’s head was safely out of the water for his mother was so busy with the kangaroo joey that she didn’t even notice her own child’s predicament.

Keepers, responding quickly to the incident, pulled the waterlogged baby out of the pond, a little damp but otherwise none the worse for the wear, and returned the wayward kangaroo to his yard.

Feb 112012

Many zoo animals get used to a set routine, and the turkey vulture in the Southwest United States exhibit in the children’s zoo was no exception. The exhibit, which he shared with a few prairie dogs and assorted lizards, was an oblong, walled enclosure with glass in the front. Children could see in through the glass and adults could lean over the open top.

The vulture was brought inside every afternoon, although not always at the same time. Some days the bird was ready to go in before keepers came to get him and he would hop up and wait on the front wall of the enclosure. If that subtle hint wasn’t taken within a few minutes he would simply hop down and walk to the holding area.

Often keepers working inside the building would be warned of his approach, either by visitor’s screams as he marched resolutely through the crowds, or by the distinctive clicking of his toenails on the cement. Other times they would just open the door and find him waiting impatiently to be let in.

His greatest escapade, however, was the day that he made it completely out of the children’s zoo. Somehow he managed to end up inside the Kodiak bear grotto. The adult female bear had recently died, but her three young male offspring were still in the exhibit. Although they had nearly reached full adult size, the bears were still immature. And they didn’t quite know how to deal with this unusual creature that had suddenly appeared in their grotto.

The turkey vulture had no such qualms. Hissing and flapping his wings, he had those three young bears, each of which outweighed him by quite a few hundred pounds, backed into a corner. The bears were scrambling backwards over each other in an attempt to get as far away from him as possible.

The situation was eventually resolved peacefully. The bears’ den door was opened, allowing them to beat a hasty, if undignified, retreat to the safety of their den, and the turkey vulture was quickly recaptured and returned safely to the children’s zoo.

Feb 092012

Domestic goats are known for their Houdini-like abilities as escape artists, but one young male African pygmy goat put the rest to shame.
His first escapes were fairly simple; he would simply walk out the front gate while it was held open by visitors lined up to enter children’s zoo. His escapes never took him far—only to the public walkways by the bears—but he seemed to enjoy all the attention he got. When keepers and ticket sellers wised up and started watching the front gate he turned his attentions to the back gate.

The exit gate was an adult-height turnstile that would rotate only one way. The goat would stand in the turnstile and look cute until someone pushed the gate for him. And since he stood just about a foot high, had shaggy, silver hair, and a typical cute baby goat face, he was a pro at looking cute.

Before long, he discovered that he could turn the gate himself. This was no mean feat for an animal his size—the gate was heavy enough that many adult humans had a hard time with it. He simply tucked his head down and, step by step, with great effort, slowly pushed the gate until he had room to squeeze through.

Eventually he was banished from that part of children’s zoo, but he wasn’t through yet. He began jumping over the eight foot fence separating the children’s zoo from the parking lot. At that point the decision was reluctantly made that he would have to go. A local farm agreed to take him. The farm would offer him room to roam without getting into trouble, but the keepers all agreed that they missed having that spunky little character around .

Feb 092012

The petting circle consisted of a U-shaped bench for the children to sit on, attached to a bank of cages containing a variety of pettable animals. Since the area was completely enclosed by the bench, some of the animals were often allowed to run around in the circle while the keeper was passing around another animal.

One day while a keeper was holding some animal for a bench full of kids, he accidentally stepped on a chick. The children’s squeals and the looks on their faces told him that many of them had seen what had happened.

Thinking quickly, he scooped up the limp chick, which, of course, was stone dead, “examined” it, and announced that it would be fine after a little rest. He then took the body back to the cages and wedged it securely between a sleeping rabbit and guinea pig where it remained “sleeping” until the next shift change.