AP NEWS

Learning about wild animals at Zoo Idaho

May 18, 2019

Unless you keep your eyes closed most of the time, you can see and or hear lots of wild animals in Pocatello; not as many as 50 years ago but still enough to arouse your interest and appreciation.

I remember seeing a tiny little black dot on the Johnny Creek Road in the winter. The road was white with snow and to see a small black bit of fuzz scurry across in front of my car was puzzling. So I pulled over to the side of the road, got out and got closer to whatever it was. I had never seen an ermine before and so didn’t understand that this was a long-tailed weasel, which in the summer is a sort of yellowy brown instead of the completely different beautiful wintertime white ermine.

There were lots of animals living in the vacant lot next to our house when we first moved here. I could sit with my binoculars looking at a family of foxes as they scrambled over and under a large log or a skunk or two playing in the grass. Then there were the deer that would walk by on their way to their grazing area and the elk we could see crossing the mountain above us. All of these animals are seldom seen today unless you go to our local Zoo Idaho. Of course, there are the deer that now use my yard as a picnic area. With an increase in building houses up in the Johnny Creek area, we have all had to get used to deer tasting the flowers and munching the grass. But it is a treat to have them be so close.

Are deer something to get angry about? No. If you don’t like the deer, you should live in the valley. These animals add to the beauty of our valley but to hear people complain about them sends a message that some do not appreciate the absolutely beautiful mountain area in which we live. While many other wild animals live in the open now, our Zoo can provide opportunities to see them.

Zoo Idaho is very special; first of all it has only animals which are from this part of Idaho. No giraffes, no elephants and no lions, but we do have close views of black bears, grizzly bears, bison, elk, cougars and so on. They are wonderful to see as are the small turtles, owls, skunks and more. Not only does Zoo Idaho have those animals, but it has many opportunities to hear stories about them, lectures about their habits and ways and many more opportunities to just watch them. I used to take classes to the zoo and give them only one task, and that was to sit and watch an animal, draw a picture of that animal and or write a story about the animal as it ate, slept or played.

Today, we hear of studies that tell us most of the wild animals all over the world will be extinct by 2025. Why? Habitats will be gone because of increased human populations, climates will change from cool to hot or hot to cool, foods will have disappeared due to temperature change and water will have become undrinkable. I mention these changes that scientists have predicted so we can all take advantage of our zoo as a way of studying the wild animals that still bless our open areas.

So, when you take your children to the zoo, see it as an example of healthy wild animals and use it as an opportunity to study one species or another by watching them at the zoo and then making use of our local library for information about their needs, what temperatures are best for them, what foods are best for them and then, as an aside, check to determine if temperature standards, food availability and space are as available for these wild animals today as they were in the past or might be in the future.

It is a good thing for us to find out about our wild animals. Seeing them in Zoo Idaho provides us with a starting place for finding information that can help us determine if they will be able to survive in the future. And, while it is good for us to look at the animals in our zoo, it is also important that we use the zoo as a starting place for investigating how our wild animals will get along in the future. Besides, it is good for us to use information about things we see so we can find out more about them and become knowledgeable about their future. So, use our zoo as a starting place and then see how far you can go to learn about future needs for our wild animals. Call the zoo at 208-705-3718 so you can find out what sort of programs they offer so you can enjoy seeing and learning about the animals.

Kay Merriam of Pocatello has a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. She was the president of the state League of Women Voters for two years and president of the Pocatello chapter for two years as well. She was the president of the Bannock County Planning and Zoning Committee for 11 years and on the Pocatello-Chubbuck District 25 School Board for six years.