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Zoo News: Brit Spaugh Zoo will host Chamber Coffee
New animals include western hognose snake, dozens of goslings
A family of Canada geese explores the grounds of the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo on Wednesday, May 31. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

The Great Bend Zoological Society will host a Chamber Coffee and ribbon cutting next week at the Brit Spaugh Zoo. The ribbon cutting celebrates the new playground equipment, which includes a wheelchair-accessible swing.

The coffee on Thursday, June 8, will start at 9 a.m., with a program at 9:30, at the zoo, located at 2123 Main.

New snake

There is a new animal at the zoo, a male western hognose snake. He is just finishing his quarantine period and can be seen in the Raptor Center starting Monday.

According to Everything Reptiles, western hognose snakes are small venomous snakes that have a fun personality. “Hognose snakes are known for their acting skills. They can play dead, flatten their neck ribs to ‘hood up’ like a cobra and false strike.” They get their name from the unique nose that scoops upwards and makes burrowing easy.

Although mildly venomous to humans, they are rarely aggressive. Their small size and gentle attitude makes them “a wonderful pet snake for beginners.”

LLLReptile adds that females can be 2 feet long, occasionally approaching the 3-foot mark, while males rarely exceed 20 inches in length.

"This is our newest addition, a male western hognose snake," said Ashley Burdick at the zoo. "He is just under a year old and will be part of our education programs. He is just finishing up his quarantine period and then he will be out on exhibit starting on Monday in the Raptor Center."

Other newcomers

Other newcomers at the zoo are the many baby Canada geese. Goose parents can be seen parading their goslings around the zoo grounds daily. There are at least 30, with the last two hatching on Memorial Day or early Tuesday, Zoo Supervisor and Curator Ashley Burdick said. The first two hatched earlier in May and will acquire their adult feathers soon.

KSN visit

Wichita television station KSN will soon conduct its 2023 Summer Road Trip series with a stop in Great Bend planned for June 13, Burdick said. The public will be able to meet members of the KSN team at noon. They are expected to be here from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 


The combination of spring migration, hatching, and spring storms brought injured and orphaned birds to the zoo this past month. A lot of young birds get blown out of trees in high winds, Burdick noted.

Burdick reports the rehab enclosures for birds have been full since mid-May. There are two juvenile bald eagles, two juvenile great horned owls, a barred owl and a red-tailed hawk.

“We have high hopes for the great horned owls and one of the eagles to be released,” she said.

 “The second eagle has a fractured leg that we are currently treating. Since this is a young bird, we are hopeful we can repair the leg and the bird can be released.

“The barred owl came in with severe feather damage and we have to wait for new feathers to grow in. Behavioral observation of this individual is indicating it may have some neurological deficits that may make the owl unreleasable.”

The red-tailed hawk was a transfer from the Garden City area. Zookeepers believe someone may have been trying to raise this bird at their home, she said. “The hawk has no fear of humans and comes up to people for food. This is extremely dangerous for a bird as they can’t hunt on their own and they may wander up to the wrong person who may cause them harm. This bird will likely be placed at another facility as an education ambassador.”

Luckily, the zoo was able to purchase five new enclosures for raptors in January, thanks to donations from the Zoo Society.

They are still raising funds for a flight cage for the rehabilitation program since they no longer have one at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility in Pawnee County. Until a large flight cage can be built on the zoo grounds or somewhere else on City of Great Bend property, birds are being trained using a creance, a long, light cord used to tether a bird for flying “like a kite, in a wide, open area,” she said.

Burdick reminds people that if anyone finds injured or orphaned wildlife, the best thing to do is call a rehabilitation facility for guidance. “Never try to rehabilitate an animal on your own as it’s often illegal and can cause damaging effects on the individual.”

Lead poisoning

“One thing we see from time to time in wild raptors is lead poisoning,” Burdick said. When hunters or fishers use lead shot or sinkers, birds of prey can ingest these animals or fish and end up with lead poisoning. In low amounts it can be treated, but not always.

“Luckily for our two eagles in rehab, they have low readings,” Burdick said. “Friendly reminder: If you are still using lead, it is illegal in some states and for some types of hunting. There are alternatives that don’t poison our wildlife!”