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Minnesota Zoological Gardens

Minnesota Trail: Wolves

Authors (Minnesota Zoo): Kevin Henderson, Grant Spickelmier, Tom Ness
Editors (ZooLex): Corinne Bailey, Monika Fiby
Published 2017-7-21
English

 

UP LOCATION:

13000 Zoo Boulevard , Apple Valley, MN 55124
Phone: 01-952-4319200
URL: http://www.mnzoo.org


UP KEY WORDS:

North American mammal, carnivore


UP ANIMALS:

Family:Species:Common Name:Capacity:
CanidaeCanis LupusGrey Wolf1.1+young


UP AWARDS:

    2008 AZA Exhibit Award


UP DESCRIPTION:

The Minnesota Trail is one of the Zoo’s original 1978 exhibits and was in need of a complete renovation.The overall project goal was “to invite zoo guests into the lives of Minnesota wildlife in a ‘North Woods’ setting, to excite them about Minnesota’s animals and their environments, to celebrate the tradition of wildlife stewardship in Minnesota, and to encourage positive action on behalf of Minnesota wildlife and wild places.”

With the new design, the zoo took advantage of the existing exterior landscape to create a richer, more immersive exhibit experience. In several spots, the public space was also extended beyond the existing corridor, providing more intimate viewing opportunities and breaking up the original linear circulation pattern.

Many native species are represented in the Minnesota Trail, with mammals including raccoon, beaver, North American river otter, North American porcupine and great horned owl, coyote, fisher, grey wolf, wolverine, puma, and Canada lynx, as well as many bird, amphibian, reptile, fish and plant species.

The wolf cabin is surrounded on three sides by the wolf enclosure, offering the visitor good views and the wolves space to roam.
 

UP SIZE:

Minnesota Trail (includes lodge, all exhibits and viewing area and service areas): 2700m², thereof wolf exhibit 1200m² and wolf cabin 50m².

Space allocation in square meters:

useindoorsoutdoors     total exhibit    
accessible     total     accessible     total    
animals1,2001,200
visitors5050
others
total501,2001,250

 

UP COSTS:

US Dollars 2,509,000 including 4 % for design.

The total cost is for the total exhibit complex of the Minnesota Trail, including design $109,000, interpretive exhibits $200,000, and construction $2,200,000.
 

UP OPENING DATE:

07 July 2007
 

UP DESIGN:

Beginning: 2006

  • Concept Design: Minnesota Zoo
  • Landscape Architecture: Damon Farber Associates
  • Architecture: RSP Architect

UP CONSTRUCTION:

Beginning: August 2006

  • Structural Engineering: Mattson Macdonald Young
  • Exhibit Fabrication: Minnesota Zoo Exhibit Staff
  • Interpretive Graphics: Spilt Rock Studios

UP LOCAL CONDITIONS:

walter.gif This is a climatic diagram for the closest weather station.

 

UP PLANTS:

The exhibits are planted with habitat-appropriate Minnesota native plant species. Spruce, fir and pine were used throughout the trail as well as native oaks, birch and aspen. Shrubs include northern species such as gooseberry, bearberry and holly, while native species with ‘wildlife attraction’ value were used for the ‘bird feeding deck’. A small Minnesota bog was placed across the beaver exhibit and planted with northern Minnesota species such blue flag iris and cattail.

The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.


UP FEATURES DEDICATED TO ANIMALS:

The mission of the Minnesota Trail is to exhibit amazing species that are native, or were once native to the state of Minnesota. Guest and animal safety is a top priority for the Minnesota Zoo and the exhibits were designed with both in mind. The design of the trail allows the visitors to get an up-close look, while still allowing the animals to feel secure and to exhibit natural behaviours.

The wolf enclosure is planted with trees that the wolves can use for shade and to hide from view.
 

UP FEATURES DEDICATED TO KEEPERS:

Web cams installed in several exhibits and holding areas allow animal care staff to observe and record animal behaviour in dens or on exhibit.

The zoo has animal escape and recapture policies that have been in place for many years. The firearms team and duty officers take annual tours through all animal areas of the zoo to ensure everyone is familiar with the area in the event of an emergency.
 

UP FEATURES DEDICATED TO VISITORS:

Visitors to the Minnesota Trail experience wildlife in a north woods setting beginning with a lodge at the head of the Trail, proceeding to a “back porch” scene with raccoons, and then on into the outdoors to view beavers and their dam, passing a new wetland and underwater exhibit. Zoo guests then follow an interpretive path that takes them through to the wolf cabin. Both outdoor and indoor viewing locations are available. The wolf cabin is surrounded on three sides by the wolf exhibit, giving the visitors a wide view of their surroundings.

Most of the animal exhibits have glass windows to allow up-close viewing of the animals, but also provide safety for the guest. The few exhibits that do not have glass viewing have a 1.2 meter wide planted space between the public barrier and exhibit fencing.

Web cams installed in the grey wolf and beaver exhibits and holding areas allow the guests to see animals when they may not be normally viewable from the trail or at home from the Minnesota Zoo’s website.
 

UP INTERPRETATION:

Interpretive goals for the exhibit are to excite visitors about Minnesota’s animals and their environment, to communicate the tradition of wildlife stewardship in Minnesota, and to encourage positive action on behalf of Minnesota wildlife and wild places.

The interpretion of the trail is multi-sensory and immersive. Visitors can climb inside a coyote den, peek into a beaver lodge, stand next to a full-size sculpture of a wolf, listen to recorded owl, frog and wolf calls, and watch a woodpecker feeding from inside a tree. The trail blurs the line between zoo exhibit and nature trail when it heads out onto a bird observation deck where feeders, berry bushes and nut trees attract dozens of native bird species, including woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals and even wild turkeys. Volunteers with field guides and binoculars demonstrate basic bird watching techniques and encourage visitors to set up bird feeding stations in their own backyards.

To connect with Minnesotan memories and traditions, the entrance of the new trail was designed to look like a North Woods lodge, complete with old photos, fishing gear, an authentic Ojibwe birch bark canoe and a massive stone fireplace. The trail itself was also designed to conjure memories of exploring the outdoors, with subtle artificial animal tracks and scat along the pathway that is designed to look and feel like a wood chip/leaf litter trail in the woods. Volunteer interpretation was built in as a critical interpretive component of the Minnesota Trail. The Trail was designed with several built-in benches for interpreters to sit, display artifacts and interact with guests. The entrance lodge includes an interpretive desk where volunteers are stationed every day to greet guests, answer questions and hand out kid’s activities. Live Minnesota animal demonstrations (porcupines, opossums, raptors, reptiles and amphibians) take place daily on an interpretive cart that is moved into the main lodge. Along with the entrance lodge, the Trail’s other primary interpretive hub is the Wolf Cabin. Here, graphics and volunteers interpret the pack of grey wolves in a cabin surrounded on three sides by the wolf exhibit. Wolves are an iconic representative of Minnesota wildlife, and the exhibit attempts to reflect this through a variety of artistic renditions of wolves, discussions about their natural history and a “perspectives” display in which a range of real people provide different viewpoints about living with wolves in northern Minnesota.

Local wildlife conservation is strongly emphasized along the trail. The issue of invasive species is conveyed using several graphics. Another key conservation program featured throughout the Trail is the Wild and Rare program. This initiative of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources highlights those species of greatest conservation need in Minnesota.

To encourage visitors to get out and explore Minnesota further, the trail ends with a large map of Minnesota pointing out all of the state and national parks in Minnesota.
 

UP MANAGEMENT:

A unique part of the Minnesota Trail animal management is that the facilities are designed to allow rotation of individuals of paired or solitary species on and off their exhibits throughout the day, so that all of the animals are on exhibit each day but for shorter periods of time. This improves the guests’ experience by encouraging more animal activity, and at the same time decreases the stress on the animals by allowing them shorter periods of time on exhibit. Multiple lynx, otters, fishers and wolverines are rotated through their respective exhibit and holding areas.

The strength, size and height of exhibit mesh used for the exhibits was specified in consultation with mesh fabricators, zoo staff and other AZA professionals. In the wolf and coyote exhibits, mesh was buried 1.6m underground at a 45 degree angle where the exhibit perimeter mesh meets the ground to prevent animals from digging into or out of the exhibits.
 

UP RESEARCH:

A visitor study was carried out in 2007, which ranked the Minnesota Trail as the highest rated experience at the Zoo. It measured reactions to the new exhibit complex as well as the interpretive effectiveness of the Minnesota Trail.
 

UP CONSERVATION:

The Minnesota Zoo participates in several AZA management programs for animals found on the Minnesota Trail, including the North American river otter, wolverine, puma and Canada lynx. These animals help to convey a conservation message to the zoo’s guests about what they can do to help reduce human impact on these species.

Local wildlife conservation is strongly emphasized along the trail. The information desk in the main lodge displays and distributes brochures from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife Services and eight other Minnesota Conservation Partners of the Minnesota Zoo (Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Audubon Minnesota, the Voyageurs National Park Assoc., etc.)

The flooring on the trail is a recycled rubber, and most of the lighting was chosen for its energy efficiency.
 

UP LOCAL RESOURCES:

The Minnesota Trail project was designed primarily “in-house” using the zoo’s project management staff, exhibit design staff, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, horticulturists and interpretive staff. Building materials native to Minnesota were used in construction.

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Overview
©Minnesota Zoo, 2014

 
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Site Plan
©Minnesota Zoo, 2014

 
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Wolf (1)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2014

 
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Minnesota Trail Entrance (2)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Minnesota Trail Main Lodge (3)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Minnesota Trail Main Lodge Fireplace (4)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Information Volunteers (5)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Wolf Cabin Entrance (6)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Wolf Cabin (7)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Grey Wolf (8)
©Minnesota Zoo,

 
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Wolf (9)
©Minnesota Zoo,

 
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Outside View of Wolf Exhibit (10)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Wolf Exhibit (11)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2014

 
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Wolf Statue in the Wolf Cabin (12)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Volunteer Information Point at Exhibit (13)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 
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Minnesota Trail (14)
©Minnesota Zoo, 2008

 

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