The animals are back once again at the Joe Brain Petting Zoo. The zoo reopened officially in June and will continue operations for the rest of the summer, with slight changes.
Zoo manager Melissa Richardson is pleased to see the public back in and have them observe the wildlife on display.
Like almost everything this summer, the petting zoo has had its operations impacted by COVID-19. A visit to the zoo this year will look and feel slightly different than it has in the past.
Ten members of the public will be allowed in the zoo’s enclosure at any given time. Social distancing will take place between groups and hand sanitizer pumps have been installed around the park. High-touch areas and bathrooms are sanitized several times each day. Food will not be allowed in the zoo, including in the small enclosed picnic area near the entrance. Only zoo staff are able to bring food to the park. All children at the zoo will need to be supervised by an adult when coming.
“Normally, people are used to just coming in and not having any restrictions on numbers and all that. They're invited to come all day, hang out with the animals, but now we're only allowed 10 people at a time,” said Richardson.
“It kind of gets crazy when people want to stay all the time and there’s a lineup outside the gate.”
Most of the zoo is outdoors, but the indoor barn portion remains subject to the same rules. There is one change in play - people can go into the barn area of the zoo, but may be asked to head into the outdoor enclosure if too many people are inside.
The new rules for operation come down from the provincial government and the City of Flin Flon, not from the zoo itself - although Richardson can make suggestions to the City if any changes need to be made.
“If I suggest something, if I see something that needs to change, I can suggest that to them and see what we can do,” she said.
The zoo also has a new Facebook page, with regular updates and photos of the animals. The new page will host the zoo’s Egg Wars event - auctions for fresh eggs laid by the chickens at the zoo. The zoo has hosted Egg Wars for three straight summers as a fundraiser for programs. In the past, Richardson and zoo staff used community Facebook pages to host the event, but the auctions were taken down by Facebook citing them as possibly related to cruelty to animals.
With a new page, Richardson foresees no similar issues.
“We’ve got our big laying chickens for Egg Wars - and because we have our own Facebook page, they can’t shut us down. We’re good to go. We had our first auction the other day with no trouble,” she said.
The zoo operates from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. every day, weather permitting. While the zoo will maintain operations through cloud and slight rain, it will close for visitors during downpours.