The Utica Zoo has served the region for over 88 years. Located in Roscoe-Conkling Park, the zoo is part of a recreational complex made possible by the donation of land from Thomas R. Proctor in 1909. The zoo has grown from its small beginnings with three fallow deer to its present collection of over 200 animals.
The zoo property is owned by the City of Utica, and until 1964, was operated by the Parks Department. In order to ensure the Utica Zoo' s continued existence, the Utica Zoological Society assumed full management of the zoo in 1964. At that time, the zoo became a member of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. The first professional zoo director was hired in 1966. One year later, Marlin Perkins officiated at the opening of the Children' s Zoo. The society was chartered as an educational institution by the New York State Educational Department in 1968. In 1973, the education department was established with the appointment of a curator to carry out its programs.
The first building, completed in 1920, is currently named the Wildlife Building and houses the administrative offices, auditorium, reptile exhibits and the zoo' s kitchen. In 1981, the Animal Care Center was added to the Wildlife Building for wildlife rehabilitation and the quarantine and veterinary facilities. Unfortunately, the zoo is no longer able to conduct wildlife rehabilitation. The first building made exclusively for animal use was completed in 1927 and still houses the cat and primate collections. Other major exhibits include the bear exhibit, the Siberian tiger outdoor exhibit (completed in 1989), and the California sea lion exhibit (finished in 1986). Major improvements planned for the near future include renovation of the Cats and Primates Building, grizzly bear and snow leopard exhbits, and the revitalization of the Children's Zoo.
The Utica Zoo is a regional facility and a sparking gem for the Mohawk Valley. The city owns the zoo property, however, the city's financial support has ended. The zoo receives annual support from Oneida County, and the remainder of the budget is made up by the Society. The largest single revenue is admissions fees, closely followed by an annual operating grant from the Natural Heritage Trust (a state agency). Funds from other grant sources, society membership, special events such as Spooktacular and Brewfest, the gift shop, concessions, the Zoo Parent program, animal feed sales, stroller rentals, and donations complete the operating budget income. Major capital improvements are funded through specific fund drives, special appropriations from the government, major grants and other contributions and sponsorships.
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