New animals added at Applegate Park Zoo in Merced

Sun-Star staffAugust 12, 2013 

— A couple of new Applegate Park Zoo residents have shown up amid two firsts at the zoo.

The zoo's newest animals are a male gray fox named Wizzer and a yet-to-be-named female alpaca, both about 6 months old, said zookeeper Donna McDowell.

Also new to the zoo are behind-the-scenes tours and a contest to name the alpaca.

Additions to the zoo can be a way to spark increased interest from the public, McDowell said.

"Hopefully, people will want to come and visit the animals," she said.

Weighing roughly three pounds, the fox came to Merced from an animal sanctuary, McDowell said. Wizzer will share an enclosure with a red fox.

Gray foxes are found all over the United States and Mexico, and eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths: insects, rodents, birds and fruit.

The contest to name the alpaca, which came from an area alpaca farm, will run through Aug. 25. Any park visitor can offer a suggestion for $1, and McDowell will choose three to go before the Merced City Council for a vote.

The person whose suggestion is picked will receive a yearlong pass to the zoo.

The alpaca's enclosure holds another alpaca and several goats. They are the only animals visitors are allowed to feed.

Alpacas are native to the Andes, particularly to Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. They were used by the Inca people for their meat and warm coats.

The 51-year-old menagerie has 28 enclosures that house about 75 animals, from tortoises and hawks to a mountain lion and a black bear.

The behind-the-scenes tours are offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and is made up of groups of four. The cost is $35.

"They'll get a chance to see some of the animals close up," McDowell said. "They'll get to see what we do — a lot closer."

For more about the tours, call the zoo at (209) 385-6840.

Applegate Park Zoo, at 1045 W. 25th St., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer, and closes an hour earlier in the winter.

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