April 24, 2014

Wizzer the fox to celebrate first birthday in Merced

Wizzer, a gray fox, will be the center of attention for his first birthday party from noon to 2 p.m. at Applegate Zoo.

Break out the cake and bring in the gifts, because Wizzer celebrates his first birthday this weekend..

The gray fox will be the center of attention for a birthday party from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Applegate Park Zoo, 1045 W. 25th St.

The fox has been a member of the zoo for most of his life. Weighing roughly 3 pounds when he arrived, Wizzer has fattened up to about 10 pounds. “He’s doing wonderful, he’s great,” zookeeper Donna McDowell said.

She said a resident brought the fox to the center about a year ago. The man spoke little English and McDowell does not speak Spanish, so it’s unclear where the man got Wizzer or why he had him, she said.

After a short stint at an animal sanctuary in Stanislaus County, McDowell said, Wizzer returned to the zoo. He hadn’t been raised by foxes, so he wouldn’t make it in the wild.

He now shares an enclosure with a 4-year-old red fox named Trixie.

Saturday’s party includes a training display of Wizzer, some facts about his life and a fox-friendly cake – made of fruit and meat-flavored yogurt. Trixie will get a cake as well, McDowell said.

Gray foxes are found all over the United States and Mexico. They hunt and scavenge just about anything they can fit in their mouths: insects, rodents, birds, eggs and fruit. Though a member of the canine family, gray foxes are known to climb trees.

McDowell said presents for Wizzer are welcome. He likes pet toys and children’s toys made for ages zero to 3 such as balls, blocks or other sturdy toys made of hard plastic, she said.

The party will also have a raffle just before the party ends. McDowell said zoo staff is working on birthday keepsakes that could be for sale as well. Proceeds for the raffle and other sales will o benefit the zoo.

The 52-year-old zoo has 28 enclosures that house about 75 animals, from tortoises and hawks to a mountain lion and a black bear.

The zoo’s newest addition is a 2-month-old Juliana pig named Iggy. Juliana pigs look similar to pot-bellied pigs, but don’t get as big.

The day’s events are included with admission to the zoo. Members of the zoological society and children younger than 5 get in free; age 5 to15, $2; 16-61, $3; and 62 and older, $1.50.

Applegate Park Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer and closes an hour earlier in the winter.

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

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