1. What is wrong with the black bears eyes?
TR has what is called “cherry eye”. It occurs after a tear gland in an animal’s third eyelid becomes inflamed. He had surgery in 2018 on the right eye to repair the issue. Unfortunately, the cherry eye returned and this time in both eyes. Since the issue is not causing him any pain and TR is a senior the decision was made to not attempt surgery again unless absolutely necessary. The veterinarians at U of I and the animal keeper staff monitor it closely to be sure he remains comfortable.
2. Why can’t we see the bison and the elk?
There are 4 pastures we rotate our herds on. The herds typically move around the pastures based on season. In the spring and fall the herds are in the main pasture. In the summer they are in the South Pasture located close to the cabins. In the winter they are all the way in the far back pasture and are difficult to see. The herds also spend a few weeks each spring and fall in the “round up” area to allow time to slowly move them up for veterinary exams. When the grass is long in the spring we are unable to cut it until it is ready to be harvested for hay. We rely on the hay supply to feed the herds during the winter.
3. Where are all the animals? We didn’t see anything in the enclosures?
Our animal enclosures are a large yard and natural environment for our animals. They are able to move and hide in their space like they would in the wild. If an animal is off display for an extended time there will be a sign on the enclosure. Occasionally animals are off display briefly so animal care staff can do work in the yard or on the fence line. A trail guide or animal keeper can assist you with spotting the animal in the yard or answer questions about when they will be back on display.
4. Since Winnie and Oakley are Father and Daughter how will you keep them from breeding?
Winnie will be fixed in order to keep the two from breeding. We hope in the future that we will find another female otter in need of a home to introduce to the yard and as a new mate for Oakley.
5. One of your snakes got out and this is the location.
Since the park is set in the woods there is a large population of wild snakes though out the park. If the snake is in a location where it is in the way of guests an animal care staff member can safely remove it from the area. If the animal is in a safe location we ask that the animal be left alone. It will move along when it is ready.
6. There is a fawn on the trails where guests are approaching it?
It is common for white tailed deer to leave their fawn for several hours while they go out and eat. They will come back to the fawn soon and are usually not too far away. It is also common for the fawns to not move even if they are touched. Animal care staff will only move the animal if it is in the best interest of the animal’s safety or it is injured.
7. There is a raccoon acting funny and this is the location. OR There is a raccoon trapped in a trash can…
Keep all guests away from the animal and call animal care staff. If the animal is not acting right it is possible it is sick. Animal care staff will safely remove the animal from the area.
8. Why can’t we pet or feed the animals?
We only allow animals to have guest interactions when animal care staff is available to assist. This is to ensure that the animal and guests remain safe at all times. Only our animal ambassadors and pioneer farm animals can be pet with the assistance of the animal trainers/keepers. Big Mike can be pet and fed on the Adventure Trek with the assistance of the volunteers.
9. When is the best time to see the animals?
The animals are most active on days when the temperatures are not too hot or too cold. They have similar comfort levels to humans with the temperatures outside. They are also not active on days it is raining or if there is a storm front moving in. The animals can sense a storm in advance and will sometimes take shelter hours prior to it starting. Animal keepers try to feed the animals close to the following times:
River Otters 9:30am and 4pm
Merrill Woods loop 10:30am
10. When will reptile hall open back up?
Reptile is currently only open for a 10am guided hike. We have a capacity of only 50 guest’s total. We will allow 25 guests in at a time. Masks are recommended for this indoor location and hand sanitizer is located at the exit.
11. What opportunities are there to have more of a close encounter with the animals?
Keeper for a Day Program
Daily Public Program
Volunteering (start as a trail guide)
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call our education department at 309-676-0998 ext 312 to book a program or with questions.