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Zoo News: Zoo passes annual USDA inspection
Toby, the African Leopard at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, has been off-exhibit as he recovers from a tail injury. He’s doing fine but the zookeepers are making sure he gets some peace and quiet for now.

On Tuesday, the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo had its first USDA inspection since the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt, Zoo Supervisor Ashley Burdick said.

“The USDA delivers surprise inspections, typically annually. During these, they primarily focus on mammals and their enclosures. They look at all aspects of an animal’s welfare, focusing on cage work integrity and safety, cleanliness, protection from the elements, enrichment, food and chemical storage, and veterinary care, to name a few. We received a clean inspection, with no noncompliant items found. Our staff works hard to ensure we are following all standards provided by them and strive to go above and beyond those regulations. Our animal care staff has done an excellent job staying on top of these guidelines and we couldn’t do it without their help!” Burdick said.

Last month saw the completion of the Bill McKown Memorial Pavilion, which will open soon. All that remains to be done is adding fencing to keep people – especially children – from falling into the pond,” Burdick said. The fencing materials should arrive in the near future.

Fun with the bears

The City of Great Bend’s Street Department has found old street sweeper brushes can be recycled as enrichment items. One was recently delivered to the bison yard and the grizzly bears are on “trial 2” for the brush in their yard. On the first attempt, the sweeper brush was placed on an 8-inch diameter pole in the bears’ wooden play structure. They knocked down the pole in under 15 minutes, Burdick said. “This time we used a steel pipe that we concreted into the ground. So far it is holding up to their incredible strength!”

Toby’s tail and the Ed Shed

A couple of areas at the zoo are off-limits for now. One is the Education Building, which is undergoing major renovation, including new flooring. Animals that have been housed in this building recently moved to the Raptor Center, in what used to be the Peacock Room. Once the work on the Education Building is done, it will again be available for its original purpose; it will be used for educational programs, meetings and parties.

The other area that is inaccessible for now leads to the exhibit of Toby, the African Leopard. The exhibit area is closed to keep the area quiet and calm while a wound to Toby’s tail heals, Burdick explained.

“He’s always had some issues with his tail and a few years ago we had to amputate a small portion. During the bout of bad weather we had, he irritated a small sore on the side of his tail,” which led to the temporary exhibit closure, she said. 

During a routine physical performed on St. Patrick’s Day, the wounded area was healing.

“It’s just taking its time,” Burdick said on March 18. This week she added, “Toby’s tail is doing better. At the moment it is scabbed over and is healing well.”

People can still see Toby sometimes when driving through Brit Spaugh Park.

bill mcKown memorial
The Bill McKown Memorial Pavilion is finished.