Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minn., rebuilds after flood

Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minn., rebuilds after flood

Fourteen animals in barnyard area die in June 20 flooding.
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Jun 26, 2012

Fourteen animals died last week at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minn., due to flooding, and employees and volunteers are working to deal with the aftermath.

The animals that died--four goats, six sheep, a donkey, a raven, a vulture and a snowy owl--were in the barnyard section of the zoo, which is a “substantial distance” from the creek that flooded and is not in its flood zone, says Keely Johnson, the zoo’s marketing assistant. Only one barnyard-area animal, “Darla” the miniature horse, survived the flood. “Darla must have swam her heart out,” says Johnson. “She’s an amazing little horse.”

Johnson says the floodwaters reached five feet in the pasture area and eight feet in the barn. The cause of the flood is under investigation by the railroad whose tracks run close to the zoo, the city of Duluth and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The zoo also flooded in 2010, and at that time an additional culvert was installed by the railroad, but it wasn’t enough to protect the zoo animals from last week’s disaster.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sent a letter to the city attorney of Duluth asking that the zoo be held accountable for the deaths of those animals and charged with negligence. “We appreciate PETA’s concern and we understand,” Johnson says. “But right now we’re working on rebuilding the zoo. We’ll deal with those concerns later.”

Three hundred volunteers showed up last weekend to help workers remove sediment, organic debris and brush to make the zoo liveable and safe for animals. The zoo has relocated some of its animals, including a polar bear and several seals, to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn. The zoo’s otters are at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. All of the other animals are in quarantine until the Duluth city engineer deems their areas safe and livable. The zoo’s veterinarian, Louise Beyea, DVM, has been keeping a close eye on all the animals, Johnson says.

Johnson says this has been a devastating experience for everyone at the zoo and that a grief counselor is being brought in to help employees deal with the loss of the animals. But she says everyone is remaining optimistic and positive while working toward getting the zoo back open.

Johnson says it will be at least a couple of weeks until the zoo is open to the public but officials still don’t know how much it will cost to recover from the damage.