From the Newsroom: A day at the zoo

A sunny, sleepy post-Valentine’s Day turned into quite the adventure last week.

Bryce Martin
Bryce Martin

By BRYCE MARTIN

Herald Editor

Posted Feb. 22, 2013

A sunny, sleepy post-Valentine’s Day turned into quite the adventure last week.

If you’ve been a resident of North Dakota for a while, chances are you’ve visited the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck. And, chances are, you’ve had a spectacular time.

Back where I’m from, Michigan had a great zoo – full of the traditional zoo and barnyard animals, but they also had the African creatures such as zebras, giraffes, hippos and more. My parents would make it a special treat to take my sister and I to the Detroit Zoo when we were young, and I grew up maintaining appreciation for walking around checking out what the animals were up to.

Who knew it could turn out to be a romantic trip, too?

We arrived at the zoo expecting large crowds of people, presumably with their children in tow. The parking lot only had four cars parked in it, so we were initially confused. A milder day outside, we didn’t have to bundle up too tight so we slipped on our jackets and headed to the front gate, which routed us to the gift shop.

“We’re here to see the moose,” I announced upon paying for our tickets (for an extraordinarily reasonable price of $6 a piece). The woman at the counter didn’t understand my humor, but I assume that’s true with a lot of people that don’t know me.

Tickets in hand, we stepped back out into the crisp North Dakota air and began our adventure with childlike bewilderment.

First up: feeding the goats.

Anyone used to life on a farm probably doesn’t understand my enthusiasm for hand feeding dried corn kernels to an animal, but I had a blast. We approached the goats and they knew full well what we were going to do. They all ran over to us and made their familiar “bah” noise. There was one baby goat, also called a “kid,” who wanted some of the corn treats, but the adult goats weren’t having it – they dove for the kernels, trampling over the little one.

Coyotes, wolves, owls, elk, leopard, lynx, camels and foxes came later, but three particular animals were the main attraction for us – the bears, the tigers and the moose.

Being literally on the opposite side of the glass from a ferocious tiger was thrilling as I had never been so close to one before. We were told that, in the winter, the animals are much more active, well, the ones able to embrace the cold North Dakota weather. And it’s true. All the animals were within touching distance, except for the ones purposely housed behind glass.

While I watched one of the tiger’s walking in pace before the viewing glass, it suddenly turned its rear towards me and ejected a white liquid with a great amount of force against the glass. We were told it was marking its territory. Did it think I was its territory?

The bears were out and apparently loving the weather. They rocked back and forth, were play fighting with one another, and rolling around in the snowy areas of their enclosure. When we approached the glass, they stopped for a moment and gawked at us – we did the same to them. Then, as if they were uninterested, they resumed their play. I suppose we weren’t stimulating enough for their attention.

Highlighting our zoo adventure was the moose. He appeared in a slight slumber as we approached, but I quickly woke him up with a kind shout or two. He didn’t seem to mind, though. Missing his antlers, which he must have shed recently, he walked over to a nearby tree and diligently rubbed his obviously sore head up and down for a bit. He began walking over to us standing at the fence, paused to relieve himself for about five minutes (not an easy feat) then stood before us and grumbled an incoherent “hello.” He eyed me once and then headed back for his pavilion, not before nonchalantly defecating in the open air. We resumed our trip around the zoo after a quick, awkward goodbye to Mr. Moose.

Contact Bryce Martin at bmartin@countrymedia.net.


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