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Beardsley Zoo

Bridgeport, Connecticut

screenprint of zoo article

Connecticut’s only zoo is tucked away in Bridgeport just off Route S. The Beardsley Zoo is small and eclectic but worth a visit. The map (available online and when purchasing tickets) makes the zoo look much larger than it is when you're walking around in it. We looked at everything, and spent about three hours there (with a 2 year-old). Peacocks and similar birds wander the park and have no fear of humans. It’s rather disconcerting to see a peacock climbing stairs, but it happens.

The timber wolves and red wolves are housed in open areas. The Wolf Observation Learning Facility allows for excellent views of the timber wolves, which come right up to the glass. The red wolves, on the other side of the building, seemed shyer.

The exhibit we enjoyed the most was the prairie dogs. These funny little animals live in a huge mound of dirt. They pop in and out of their burrows, eating and napping. Under the exhibit are tunnels built for humans. The main tunnel is spacious enough for grown-ups. Side tunnels branch out and up, ending in clear viewing tubes. These tubes are a tight squeeze for adults (especially the ninety-degree turn at the end) but perfect for children. At the center is an adult-accessible large viewing tube. I was astonished to find myself literally eye-to-eye with an unconcerned prairie dog when I got my turn in the tube. Most of the children playing there didn’t want to leave, and I admit to some reluctance myself—it was that fun to be a prairie dog for a few minutes.

An aviary containing a barred owl is next to the bison (buffalo). The male was huge—they weigh up to 3,000 pounds. He was reclining against the fence so we were able to get very close. He smelled terrible and was covered with flies, but he was still awesome. I can’t imagine what it was like when herds of these roamed the West.

A herd of pronghorns grazed in the next area. These are the fastest land animal in the U.S., capable of running 54 miles an hour.

A pair of Andean bears, from South America, live in separate cages. We watched one take a bath in his pond and play with his empty beer keg. He then shook himself off and went for a walk. When a frog jumped out of the pond, the bear swatted it and continued his stroll. The frog leapt away, unharmed.

The lynx, in true cat fashion, was curled up in a ball asleep, looking no more dangerous than a large housecat. The cats in the next cages, however, were anything but asleep, and looked very dangerous. A group of critically endangered Amur (Siberian) tigers, in two cages, prowled watchfully. (In 2005 three baby tigers were born at the Zoo, part of the AZA Species Survival Plan.)

A few peacocks settled near the tiger cages, and like a housecat watching a cardinal, one of the tigers settled in the corner, tail twitching, its eyes fixed on the birds.

Across from the tigers, a loop winds through a small aviary to the otters. These seemed to pose for pictures, getting out of the water and standing up. Like the bears, lynx and tigers, the otters also had toys—an empty 5 gallon water jug provided them with endless fun.

Directly behind the aviary, large alligators doze in the sun, sharing their pool with turtles. Across from them the foxes were visible, but napping.

Outside, a sculpture of an alligator is suitable for riding and picture-taking, one of many sculptures scattered throughout the zoo—a bear, a tiger, a frog, a pair of lions and others make great photo ops. We made a quick stop at the Carousel building, which houses an authentic running carousel and a collection of antique carousel horses.

The air inside the rainforest building was pungent and because of that we spent less time inside than I liked. Macaws, caiques (parrots), toucans, ibis and other birds perched and called from lush foliage. A cage of Golden Lion Tamarin occupied our attention as we tried to spot the new babies. One of these little red monkeys hung from the fence right in front of us, looking at us with its human-like face. The other parent, lugging the babies, eventually came down from a high corner perch and seemed annoyed by our regard.

I was entranced by the howler monkeys, ready to proclaim them as my favorite primate. One sat in a tree and gazed at us mournfully. On the way out, I passed a tiny monkey, the size of a newborn kitten, napping in the crook of a branch. There is something appealing about miniature creatures, and with apologies to my sad-eyed howler, I gave my heart to the pygmy marmoset. One of the many things threatening this animal is the pet trade, and it’s easy to see why someone would want one of these wizened-face critters.

The final area was the New England Farmyard. A woman was grooming and playing with an elderly rabbit in an exhibition area, answering questions and talking about the zoo with those gathered. The most exotic animal in this area (other than the twelve-foot high cow statue) was a surprisingly large porcupine, which perched high on a branch, indifferent to people. Ducks, geese, chickens, goats (which you can feed for a quarter), pigs, and eyen a common barn cat are just some of the animals on display here.

We ended with a stroll through the greenhouse. The zoo grows all its own plants and foliage for exhibits. One section was devoted to cactus and succulents; with some cactus so tall they touched the ceiling panels.

The admission price is very fair, and while the Beardsley Zoo is on the small side, it’s a fun and educational way to spend an afternoon, with or without children.

(c) 2007. Some information may be out of date.


All material on this site is copyright (c) by Gevera Bert Piedmont except where noted. All rights reserved. Contact me for permission to republish. Information on this site is for entertainment purposes only. Enjoy! })i({

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