By Michael H. O’Donnell/Idaho State Journal
POCATELLO â€” As the weather warms, animals in Pocatelloâ€™s Zoo Idaho â€” both wild and confined â€” are increasing their activities, and visitors will be able to take advantage of the zooâ€™s season opener Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.
Because construction continues at the Lower Ross Park entrance to the zoo, visitors are asked to enter at the zoo headquarters building in Upper Ross Park near the Pocatello Animal Shelter at 3101 Avenue of the Chiefs.
â€śWe made a conscious effort to strike a balance in our improvements during the offseason,â€ť said Peter Pruett, Zoo Idaho Superintendent. â€śWe wanted to make sure to enhance our visitorsâ€™ experience and also improve the lives of the animals who call Zoo Idaho home year-round.â€ť
Because the opener will push visitors to the upper part of the zoo, the first exhibit will be the facility that holds grizzly bears Shoni and Stripes. Shoni is a 4-year-old female brought to Pocatello two years ago after she was captured on the Shoshone National Forest near the Pahaska Tepee Resort outside of Cody, Wyoming. Stripes is more than 30 years old but still rules the roost at the bear exhibit.
â€śShoni still gives the old bear plenty of space,â€ť said lead zoo keeper Jim Beinemann.
Additional fencing has been added around the grizzly bear exhibit that will allow guests to have a better view of both bears in the outdoor portion of the exhibit.
Beinemann has been preparing some of the new changes at the zoo, including a new enclosure for the bobcat and another space for â€śPokieâ€ť the porcupine.
The raccoons have moved into a newly renovated exhibit next to the turkey vulture, and for the first time this spring, â€śLambchopâ€ť the baby bighorn sheep will be on display.
Beinemann made the rounds Thursday to check on the displays and toss a few snacks to the animals. Using a whistle to get their attention, Beinemann provided some snacks to a pair of raccoons and the reclusive porcupine.
As Beinemann made his way through the zoo complex, Canadian geese and rock chucks dodged across the access road in front of his service truck.
Rock chucks, or yellow-bellied marmots, emerge early in the lava rock formations of the park.
â€śWe saw the first ones on March 1,â€ť Beinemann said.
Unlike many zoos in the country, Zoo Idaho accepts only animals that would be found in the habitats of the Rocky Mountains. Itâ€™s why a pair of buffalo graze a large area with a small herd of elk and some pronghorns.
Beinemann said the zoo is hoping to establish a special area for the antelope in the near future and potentially convert an existing pen area to house mountain lions.
â€śWe are continually making improvements,â€ť he said.
Work also is continuing on the zooâ€™s entrance along South 2nd Avenue. A new ADA pathway is scheduled to be in place by mid-May while landscaping will go into the summer months. Another new walkway will be constructed from the entrance to the bighorn and mountain goat exhibits. Officials also say construction will begin this spring on new exhibits for the golden eagle and bald eagle, with construction expected to wrap up in the summer.
During the month of April, Zoo Idaho will be only open during the weekends. Admission is $5.75 for ages 12 to 59, seniors ages 60 and up are $4.50, children ages 3 to 11 are $3.75; and infants to age 2 get in free.
In May, the Zoo will be open daily through October and guests can resume using the South 2nd Avenue sometime mid-month.
â€śWeâ€™re an extremely economical option for entertainment and education,â€ť Pruett said. â€śA family of four can spend a day at Zoo Idaho for less than $25.â€ť
For more information on Zoo Idaho, visit zoo.pocatello.us or call 208-234-6264.