The Dakota Zoo in Bismarck first started as the Marc and Betty Christianson Farm, a sixty-seven acre farm in what was then the north edge of Bismarck. The farm initially operated as a boarding place for domesticated animals, such as cats, dogs, and horses. Over time, those who knew the Christiansons and their love of animals began bringing stray or injured animals to the couple's farm, knowing that the animals would receive the care they needed. As the number of animals at the farm increased, so did curiosity and the number of visitors to the Christianson Farm to see the animals. Scroll to see the full list with photos or jump to the table of contents.

Dakota Zoo History

Dakota Zoo History

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780 people signed petitions for a community zoo in Bismarck. Marc Christianson then used these petitions to present the idea of a zoo to the Bismarck Park Board, pitching the idea that the zoo would be self-supporting and thus would require no funding from the City of Bismarck. In 1958, the Park Board provided 88 acres in Sertoma Park for the zoo.

The Dakota Zoo opened its gates on June 3, 1961 on around 15 acres of land with a collection of animals consisting of twenty-three birds and seventy-five mammals. The zoo now includes 125 birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Viewing Areas

Viewing Areas

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The Dakota Zoo, situated on ninety acres of land along the banks of the Missouri River, provides many different opportunities to experience the animals who call this zoo home. Visitors can enjoy hand-feeding a group of friendly goats in the farmyard to feeling a chill down their spine while entering the domain of snow leopards and tigers. Many of the exhibits feature viewing stations with glass walls that offer great opportunities for photos and clear vistas. The zoo's land includes an expansive meadow area and softly rolling river bottoms full of mature hardwood and cottonwood trees. The landscape allows the majority of the zoo's exhibits to resemble the natural habitat of its animal residents.

More Things to See

More Things to See

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Among the Dakota Zoo's many animal exhibits are several featuring animals from North America. Massive glass viewing windows provide visitors with great views of the grizzly bear enclosure and the Elk Overlook; as well as the lynx, bobcat, and mountain lion exhibits. The exhibit for the gray wolves provides guests with a birds-eye view of the animals from a raised viewing platform. Large underwater windows are a main feature the two-level North American river otter enclosure, offering visitors a chance to watch the otters playfully swim around and show off with spectacular underwater feats. The prairie dog exhibit is suited more towards younger guests, providing them with viewing domes and tunnels that provide an opportunity to get up close to the inquisitive animals.

Home to many small primates, the Dakota Zoo's "Monkey Barn" features enclosures fronted with glass. Visitors can watch snow leopards and tigers from inside the exhibit in the Jack and Joyce Schuchart Big Cat Complex. A system of tunnels, viewing turrets, and heated viewing stations offer guests a chance to see these big cats up close and from different viewpoints. The Bismarck Tribune Discovery Center showcases reptiles, amphibians, and both saltwater and freshwater fish in an indoor, climate controlled environment. There are also several fenced animal exhibits throughout the Dakota Zoo.

More Things to See

More Things to See

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Discovery Center

The Bismarck Tribune Discovery Center at the Dakota Zoo provides an interactive learning environment that includes computers, graphics, educational and live animal displays, and aquariums designed to educate guests about the natural world.

Located just outside of the Discovery Center is a large playground area. Inside the Discovery Center is a 900 square foot meeting room, featuring unique wildlife d├ęcor, that makes a great space for small groups to gather for parties or meetings. This room can seat up to seventy-five people "theater style," or forty people with tables and chairs. The meeting room's windows look out onto the Dakota Zoo's waterfowl exhibit area. Technological equipment is available for the room upon request.

Rose Garden

The Dakota Zoo's Carol Bothun Memorial Rose Garden can be found across from the prairie dog exhibit, beside the small mammals and reptile building. The garden was created by the Bismarck Mandan Garden Club and is now maintained by Garden Club and Prairie Rose Club members. The Rose Garden provides a beautiful space for zoo visitors to rest for a while. Two Canada Geese are often found near the garden, and red tailed hawks can also sometimes be seen nearby as well.

Animal Care Facility

The more than 600 animals that call the Dakota Zoo home represent over 125 species, and each species has its own health care needs. Many of these animals are threatened or endangered species and are part of joint efforts with wildlife agencies and other zoos in Species Survival Plans. The Species Survival Plans strive to release animals back into nature if there are secure environments, oversee proper breeding program, and assist in ensuring genetic diversity.

The Dr. James and Edna Moses Animal Care Facility at the Dakota Zoo is a completely equipped veterinary hospital. Animals receiving care at the facility are treated by Dr. Kelly Thorsness and Dr. Jim Wheeler, two veterinarians who take the time to volunteer their services to the zoo. Not only do these veterinarians provide veterinary work, but they also conduct several different education presentations within the facility, including seminars suited towards professionals in animal care and hands-on Junior Zookeeper camp demonstrations. Zoo staff also closely observe the Dakota Zoo's animal residents to help ensure their well being. The thorough knowledge zookeepers have of animal habits, along with interaction with the animals on a daily basis, helps possible issues of health to be swiftly identified and treated.

More Things to See

More Things to See

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Zoo visitors can take a break from viewing animals and sit and relax in the Marjorie Asker Memorial Gazebo. Marge Asker volunteered at the Dakota Zoo before the zoo even really existed, and was involved with the zoo's planning, construction, and maintenance from the beginning. She also spent time increasing memberships to the zoo and eventually became known as "The Membership Lady." The gazebo can be reserved for birthday parties and picnics, but is otherwise open to the all visitors to the zoo.

Play Areas

Younger zoo visitors can let out their energy and parents can take a break at the Children's Play Area. In the play area, children can slide like the otters, hop like the wallabies, climb like the spider monkeys.

Junior Zookeeper Camp

The Dakota Zoo offers Junior Zookeeper camps for kids ages eight to twelve. The camps are designed to educate children about animals and help to create a caring attitude about nature. Campers get entertaining, hands-on experience, as well as an in-depth look at several aspects of zookeeping. Kids will have the chance to go behind the scenes to assist in preparing diets and learn about animal health care, work on projects to enrich the lives of the animal residents, attend zookeeper presentation about different species, and more. Participants of the Junior Zookeeper camps will gain a well-rounded understanding of animals, the daily responsibilities of a zookeeper, and the part zoos play in wildlife conservation.

Adult Zookeeper Camp

Adults also have the opportunity to participate in a zookeeper camp at the Dakota Zoo. The Adult Zookeeper Camp is designed to teach those age eighteen and older about animals, as well as to help adults develop a caring attitude towards nature. The camp offers a fun, interactive experience while providing an in-depth look at the duties of a zookeeper. Camp participants learn about animal health care and help prepare diets behind the scenes, attend presentations by zookeepers about different species, work on projects to enrich the lives of the animals at the zoo, and much more. Campers gain a well-rounded knowledge of animals, daily responsibilities of zookeepers, and the role zoos play in wildlife conservation.

More Things to See

More Things to See

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Animal Ed-Ventures

The Animal Ed-Ventures camp at the Dakota Zoo is tailored to kids age five to seven. Each camp is filled with exciting and fun adventures for children. Each one also covers a different topic, featuring crafts and meeting animals.

Little Tykes Ed-Ventures

The Dakota Zoo's Little Tykes Ed-Ventures are similar to Animal Ed-Ventures, however, these camps are designed for children ages three and four. They are filled with fun adventures for preschool children, and each one covers a different topic. Kids participating in this program will have fun meeting and learning about animals, as well as making crafts.

Zoovivor Camp

Zoovivor Camp at the Dakota Zoo offers children age eight to twelve to challenge their skills and adventure. This camp pits teams of five against one another in an array of challenges while giving them a chance to experience the zoo in a different way.

Family Zoo Snooze Campover

The Dakota Zoo hosts a family camping adventure every summer. The Family Zoo Snooze Campover offers participants a night time flashlight tour of the zoo and several animal-related activities. Families can bring their own tent or reserve one from the Dakota Zoo. The Family Zoo Snooze Campover starts on a Friday night and ends the next morning after a breakfast provided by the zoo.

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600 Riverside Park Rd, Bismarck, ND 58504, Phone: 701-223-7543, website, Map

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