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Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo A Rapid Visit to a Tiny Zoo | Review of the Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo

Discussion in 'United States' started by Milwaukee Man, 12 Jul 2023.

  1. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member 10+ year member

    1 Aug 2011
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
    Review of the Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo


    Within the little town of Wisconsin Rapids sits the Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo, a seasonal attraction that opened in 1951. Unfortunately, I could not find any additional historical highlights for this Zoo apart from the occasional opening for an animal enclosure. According to the website, 22 species call this establishment home with at least 57 individual animals that I saw.

    Similar to the state’s other tiny zoos, there is a noticeable small-town charm and feel to the establishment. Unlike most of those other zoos though, where there is a particular element that make them stand out in addition, it’s a little difficult to think of something for Rapids. I had a nice visit overall, and would like to see this facility succeed in the future, but I felt the Zoo would benefit from a boost in some areas.

    Animal Exhibit Complexes

    Large Mammal Exhibits – In the back of the property there is a pair of grassy and spacious paddocks, each with a barn and a few additional features that dot the landscape. A young dromedary camel inhabits one paddock with a few cow brushes, while a trio of equines (miniature horses, single zeedonk, and miniature donkeys) share the next-door habitat, which is partly shaded thanks to some large trees found in half of the exhibit. These two habitats are the best that the Zoo has to offer in my opinion; they even have an added bonus of dispensable food pellets that can be sent down a feeding tube to the hungry hoofstock. Down the path, a pair of red kangaroos can be found in a new habitat that just opened last year. However, the amount of space for the largest marsupials is small, with a sandy substrate and little natural features. It would’ve been beneficial if the surrounding area was also utilized for a larger and more natural space for the roos.

    Small Mammal Exhibits – All of the species are in small cages that may vary in design, but all have in common that they come with little naturalism. The least successful of these are the two concrete cages for the South American species (Patagonian cavy and coati), which feature no natural substrate, a few rocks and logs in the center, and a tiny, dark den. Nearby, a single African crested porcupine and red fox each occupy a small cage that is a combination of wooden walls and wire fencing. These have concrete floors as well, but do come with a couple furnishings such as a large leafy branch for the porcupine to nestle behind. Additionally, although the fox does have an extension in the form of a small outdoor yard, it’s really little more than a grassy cage. Finally, there is a corn-crib cage for ring-tailed lemurs that is the first exhibit visitors see when they walk through the gate with minimal branches for climbing and a concrete floor.

    Bird Exhibits – Near the coatis and cavies, Amazon parrots and quails reside in a wood and wire aviary that is hard to see into. Though on the small side, it is decently furnished with rocks, tons of branches, and enrichment items to keep the intelligent parrots busy. Though not very naturalistic (the only substrate is wood shavings), it is at least one of the more detailed enclosures here. This exhibit, however, is overshadowed by what I feel is the third best enclosure in the Zoo. Dubbed the “Duck Pond,” a slew of birds (Indian peacock, black swan, Sebastopol goose, cayuga and call ducks) share this waterfowl pond, which was constructed in 1976. The front of the area is a cobblestone-like surface, with a shallow-looking yet clean and sizeable pool just behind, and a ring of grass taking up the rest of the space. Also worth noting are a couple intriguing sculptures near the back that resemble a dik-dik and a ratite.

    Children’s Petting Zoo – This is the only dedicated exhibit complex in the entire Zoo, consisting of a large barn with animal pens inside, and a grassy exterior for the tortoises. The pens inside are nothing fancy, being simply small spaces filled with wood shavings, but the opportunities to get up-close, feed, and give the animals a good scratch are always nice, especially for kids. There is even a large whiteboard that identifies each of the animals on display. Just outside, one can get up-close to the tortoises as they graze and amble through the grass. It’s nice that the reptiles get to freely roam in the general area (under volunteer supervision of course) as opposed to being in their own paddock for a change. Species list: llama, zebu, Brahman cattle, goats, sheep, African spurred tortoise, and painted turtle (these occupy a black tub filled with water and rocks).

    Visitor Experiences

    Perhaps the biggest strength found at this facility is the Zoo grounds themselves. For a tiny, free-admission establishment, it appeared to be well-kept up, with relatively clean pathways, expansive viewing, and informative signage. I also liked the setting; something about a smaller zoo nestled within either a park or near the hustle and bustle of a town adds a nice sense of community and atmosphere that sometimes isn’t present at a larger major zoo. In the case of Wisconsin Rapids, a busy road, a government office, and train tracks surround the lightly wooded property – there’s even a powerline that goes directly over the “Duck Pond!” With the layout, much like Marshfield or Ochsner Park, it can be easy to see the Zoo in almost its entirety from one place thanks to its tiny size; because of this, it is easy to navigate whether that is the roughly L-shaped pathway that leads from the gate to the kangaroos, or going on the grass to admire some of the gardens or interesting sculptures. Speaking of which, there are at least four notable gardens scattered around the attraction that add to the beauty of the grounds. These are packed with greenery, colorful flowers, mulch trails, and elements that are unique to a specific garden – with a few examples being a plaque dedicated to the Zoo’s founder, a rocky fountain, or metallic sculptures designed like various animals. When it comes to available amenities, the Zoo is quite limited; the entry gate is a covered archway with the Zoo’s logo off to the side, the only food and drink available are a few vending machines, there’s a tall case that presents a number of minerals and fossils by the entrance, and there is a nice seating plaza next to the lemurs to take a breather. The most notable of these is “Helen’s Zoo House,” a large brick structure next to the Zoo that holds the restrooms and a large gathering space for events and parties, along with a nearby playground.

    HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: Though the cavies were occupying their concrete cage, there was one component that made viewing their exhibit worthwhile. A couple little babies were recently born, and they were cute and a real joy to watch. :) They would bound after their mother as she walked around the exhibit and daringly balanced on the ledge next to the fence line. At one point, I even heard one of the youngsters yelp when the others would go too far!

    OVERALL: I’ll be honest, I do feel kind of bad for this Zoo. With a well-maintained animal collection, grounds, and sense of community, it has the elements to be a nice small-town stop. However, there is very limited substance in the animals present and the exhibitry (both in quantity and quality) to be found here. Because of this, it is, in my opinion, the least successful amongst the state’s smaller free-admission zoos such as Marshfield, Manitowoc, and Menominee Park. I can see some promise in this facility, but that may take a long time to reach that potential, especially if the latest project (the kangaroo exhibit) is anything to go by.

    Currently, the Zoo is constructing a prairie dog exhibit in between the fox and camel enclosures. Beyond that, a Master Plan was revealed a few years ago with several projects mentioned, particularly adding in more animals (river otters were at the top of the survey according to the document) and improving current exhibits. Link is here: Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo Master Plan
  2. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member 5+ year member

    17 Sep 2017
    I couldn't agree more with these reviews. In general I love the charm found a lo of the tiny free municipal zoos in Wisconsin - Ochsner Park especially is one of my favorites, but also Manitowoc Lincoln Park, Menominee Park, Wildwood and Bruemmer Park are all very pleasant microzoos with some nice exhibits, nice grounds, and no crowds.

    WRMZ has none of those things going for it. There's nothing worth seeing here (except Common Quail, which is somewhat of rarity, but the enclosure is nothing special) and I feel like you forget about the zoo the moment you leave - which I cannot say for the other zoos I mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
    Wild wolverine and Milwaukee Man like this.