The Great Bend Tribune’s annual Zoo Pride special section was included in the Sunday, April 22, paper. Copies as available at the Tribune, 2012 Forest Ave.
Brit Spaugh (1901-1966) was born in Forsyth County, N.C., but his family moved to Great Bend when he was still an infant. They ran Spaugh Grocery.
Brit Spaugh was appointed Great Bend’s park supervisor in 1935. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he returned with a dream to create a zoo and park that would delight area children. It started with a duck pond in the park. Then, in 1953, Spaugh acquired two white-tailed deer and built a pen for them. During the 1950s and ’60s, the zoo was filled with former circus animals, former mascots, unfortunate souvenir pets that had outgrown their owners’ homes and lives, and wild-caught animals. By 1960 there were more than 500 animals.
Modern zoos are more committed to the comfort of the animals and more aware of the origins of those animals. Today, the Great Bend zoo is part of a 46-acre park with 86 animals and 55 different species, not including insects and fish, that meets high standards for animal management and care. While part of its mission is still to entertain, the Brit Spaugh Zoo is dedicated to the conservation, preservation and rescue of animals and the education and entertainment of children and adults.
Visitors enter the zoo through the Raptor Center. This building contains educational exhibits, a meeting area, rest-rooms and a gift shop. Inside this facility, visitors can peer into the veterinary room and watch as checkups and other procedures are done on some animals; this usually happens on Wednesday afternoons.
The zoo also treats wounded birds ofprey, or raptors.
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily except Christmas day and Thanksgiving day.
The entrance is through the Raptor Center, located in Brit Spaugh Park. Enter off North Main Street (23rd and Main). Admission is free.
feed the animals
While the public is encouraged to get involved with the zoo in many ways, feeding the animals is not one of them. All of the animals are on special diets.
There is one exception: People may feed the ducks, swans, geese and fish the food that is sold at the front desk inside the Raptor Center.
Visitors may not bring bread or other food into the zoo to feed to the ducks. Bread can be very harmful to birds as it can cause a deformity commonly called “angel wings.” This deformity makes birds unable to fly, causing them to fall prey to predators and making them more likely to be hit by cars.