The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo is back to normal hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, and the Raptor Center is open again.
The storm on June 21 created a mess of downed limbs and two big trees uprooted at the zoo, which remained closed most of last week for cleanup by the Park Department and the zoo staff. A bucket truck was needed to remove large, broken branches still hanging from trees. The zoo reopened last Friday morning but visitors were reminded to steer clear of areas where crews were still working.
“We have the big stumps from the trees that were uprooted to remove yet,” Zoo Curator and Supervisor Ashley Burdick said Wednesday evening.
None of the main structures or animal enclosures were damaged.
“There was some damage to the fence around the shop area and the butterfly house,” she said. “On Sunday we had a very large branch fall over the Ed Shed building (which was already closed to the public). It hasn’t fallen on the roof completely; it’s just resting and there’s no significant damage as of yet. We are bringing in a company to help remove it due to the size and the potential for it to fall into the building.”
Even though the storm created a big mess, all of the branches have been providing great enrichment for the animals, Burdick said. She posted a video on the zoo’s Facebook page of Toby the leopard playing with leaves on a branch. “We also have plenty of branches to finish perching in the new parrot yard,” she said.
Since becoming Zoo Curator and Supervisor this year, Burdick has remained true to her word about posting more animal videos and photos on the zoo’s Facebook page. Other recent posts have shown the new bison roaming around their exhibit, a barn owl displaying defensive posturing, a parrot vocalizing and a young opossum exercising on a wheel.
The parrot enclosure and its yard are finally finished and the exhibit is open to the public. Previously the Amazon parrots lived in a smaller building closer to the leopard enclosure.
“This project (building and exhibit) was funded in conjunction with the Great Bend Zoological Society. Be on the lookout for the parrots when you visit the zoo!” Burdick said.
Two Amazons, Gene and Gilda, have spent time exploring the yard, along with Monte the cockatoo, “but the others haven’t ventured out yet,” Burdick said. Papa, another Amazon, and Rudy the Macaw are unsure about this new space.
“Monte and Rudy were part of a program the zoo used to have with the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility. The program ended due to budget cuts at their facility a few years ago and we had a short amount of time to find space for the birds. Two other macaws were sent to a specialized parrot sanctuary due to the ‘colorful language’ they acquired and we kept these two.”
The biggest story of June was the arrival of two bison siblings, Gus and Breeze, from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita.
“We just ask that you refrain from any loud noises or yelling to them so as not to scare them,” Burdick said.
Other new animals
The new exhibit area in the Raptor Center is still closed due to pandemic restrictions, but when it reopens visitors will see some of the zoo’s smaller new animals there. Currently, visitors can look past the barrier to catch a glimpse into 10 terrariums. On Thursday, we spotted a rose-hair tarantula, a western hognose snake and several Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
They’ve added an axolotl – a salamander also known as the Mexican walking fish – and a giant desert hairy scorpion.
“Last month we also took in a couple of leopard geckos from the humane society that had been abandoned,” Burdick said. “They are currently in quarantine, but will likely be on display in the future once we get them healthy again.
“And lastly, we have added a Virginia opossum that was found with a head injury and due to the injury and slight neurological issues, is non-releasable. He won’t be on exhibit due to their nocturnal nature, but we do intend to use him for education programs once we are able to have those again!