Located in Billings, Montana, ZooMontana is a 70-acre animal refuge and is the state’s only botanical park, showcasing more than 58 animal species with an emphasis on native Montana wildlife. ZooMontana was established in 1982 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Montana’s native wildlife, with a specific emphasis on wildlife native to the Rocky Mountains and other regions at or above the 45th Parallel.

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History

As the state’s only zoo facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ZooMontana serves as a primary educational and recreational wildlife facility for the greater Rocky Mountains area. In addition to animal habitat facilities, the zoo also operates the Botanical Society at ZooMontana, which maintains botanical garden areas throughout the park and serves as a resource for botany and ecology education and conservation efforts.

Permanent Exhibits and Animals

Today, more than 80,000 annual visitors are hosted at the facility, which showcases more than 100 animals belonging to 58 species. ZooMontana’s animal exhibits are divided into two main geographical regions, focusing on animal species native to Asia and North America. Within the park’s Asian Exhibit, visitors can see red pandas, Sichuan takin, and Amur tigers in indoor and outdoor natural habitat areas. North American animals are divided into several exhibit areas, including a Rocky Mountain Adventure area highlighting Canada lynx, gray wolves, grizzly bears, and wolverines. An America’s Waterways exhibit is split by the Canyon Creek waterway, which runs through the center of the zoo facility and provides a natural park-like atmosphere. Bald eagles, North American beavers, and North American river otters are on view for visitors within the exhibit area, along with swan, emperor, and Arctic geese.

Within the zoo’s Homestead Barn exhibit area, visitors can interact with domesticated farm animals, including pygmy goats, Belgian draft horses, turkey vultures, and domestic rabbits, on the grounds of traditional farm buildings. The zoo’s Discovery Center also features Living Wall habitat areas for insects and small animals from Africa, South America, and other international habitats. A variety of snake species are showcased, including ball pythons, red-tailed boa constrictors, and rubber boas. Other animals on display include Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tiger salamanders, box turtles, chinchillas, and western screech owls.

A 40,000-square-foot Sensory Garden is also operated inside the zoo facility, overseen by the Botanical Society at ZooMontana. The Sensory Garden was created in 1991 by Botanical Society committee chair Jane Reger, who wished to create a botanical garden facility with accessibility features for all zoo visitors, including those with disabilities. The garden common area showcases perennial flower beds in landscaped formations alongside mature trees and bushes. Two fountains are located at both ends of the garden commons, including a waterfall fountain at its western end with a shaded arbor providing comfortable views. Visitors may touch all flowers and water areas and may use the garden’s benches for quiet reflection or bring blankets to relax on the common area’s main lawn.

In addition to the zoo’s main animal habitats and gardens, a Koi Pond is located behind the Homestead House, with fish food offered for a nominal fee. A children’s playground and covered picnic shelter are located near the zoo’s entrance, though no on-site dining options are offered. The Grizzly Gifts and Otter Stuff gift shop offers plush toys, postcards, and animal-themed souvenirs, and strollers and wheelchairs may be rented at the zoo’s front gate.

Ongoing Programs and Education

Guided and self-guided tours are offered for elementary and secondary students, tailored to Montana curriculum standards. 30 to 45-minute edZOOcate educational programs are also offered at the park’s amphitheater for school groups, accommodating up to 150 participants and allowing time for question and answer sessions with zoo staff. Materials for self-guided zoo scavenger hunts may also be picked up from the zoo’s front gate, and a Junior Zookeeper program allows young visitors to receive participation badges and certificates in exchange for completion of zoo activities and exercises. Videoconferencing programs are offered for in-classroom distance learning opportunities, and programming for homeschool students is offered periodically throughout the year. Zoo trunks are also available for in-classroom rental.

ZooMontana offers kindergarten prep classes for children ages 3-5 through its ZooSchool Preschool program, open to all zoo members. A monthly ZooTots activity group highlights a different animal each month with up-close encounters and craft activities. Breakfast with the Animals events offer experiences with Education Ambassador animals, and a variety of summer and afterschool camp programs use art projects and activities to teach about native Montana wildlife. Adult art classes are also offered periodically.

2100 Shiloh Road, Billings, MT 59106, Phone: 406-652-8100

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