Since 1962 The Merced Zoo has served as a safe haven for rescued and rehabilitated wild animals that are no longer able to survive in their natural habitats. With over 75 mammals, birds, and reptiles that are native to the California environment, these animals now serve a glimpse into the areas across the state that remain wild. For countless children and families in the area, the Merced Zoo also serves as a window into what those who work to protect these habitats are working to save.
Run by the Merced Zoological Society in conjunction with the City of Merced, the Merced Zoo hosts a variety of special projects and fundraiser throughout the year to benefit the animals that call the zoo home. During the spring months, residents can stop by the zoo to take part in Teddy Bear Day and have their child’s favorite stuffed animal receive a checkup or experience Butterfly Day next to the Butterfly Garden. For those looking for more in-depth learning about the animals on-site, during the summer months the Merced Zoo organizes a Zoo Camp where children can take part in four days of activities.
During a behind the scenes tour offered by the Merced Zoo, visitors can get an extraordinarily close look at many of the zoo’s residents. Offered by appointment for groups of two or more at $12.50 per person, the tours take you into the areas that are normally off-limits to anyone but Merced Zoo staff so that you can get a closer look at Mac the mountail lion, Wizzer the fox, the mascot for UC Merced Boomer the bobcat, and countless others.
As part of the Behind the Scenes tour you’re also encouraged to feed certain animals, including some of the zoos feathery friends, raccoons, and some of the largest animals at the Merced Zoo including the bears Missy and Windfall.
Those who make their way to the Merced Zoo on Saturday’s can benefit from the guided docent tours. Hosted with students from UC Merced, the docent tours guide visitors through the park to provide a weekly educational tour and provide additional insight into the animals.
When the holiday season arrives, Mercedians are invited to take part in the annual Zoo Boo event for Halloween and the Lights Before Christmas Event for the winter holiday. During the Zoo Boo events, the zoo is transformed into a scary sight for young trick or treaters in costume to make their way around the park at night to collect candy. At the end of the trick or treating route, a mini carnival is on sight as well as a petting corral and other fun activities. During the Lights Before Christmas event, the Merced Zoo is made into a winter wonderland complete with Santa’s Workshop where children can help make decorations, a Christmas tree forest, reindeer, and other holiday fun.
The Merced Zoo is located at 1045 West 25th street and open 7 days a week from 10:00AM until 4:45PM. Admission to the zoo is free for those under 5 years old, $2.00 for those ages 5 to 15, and $3.00 for ages 16 to 61. For those 62 and older admission is $1.50, and for members of the Merced Zoological Society admission is free. To become a member of the Merced Zoological Society, a membership form can be found online at MercedZoo.org. Once you become a Merced Zoological Society member, you can begin receiving other perks such as a 10% discount inside of the gift shop and free or discounted admission to other zoos around the country. Membership dues start at $20.00 for students, seniors, and individuals, and go up to $35.00 for families, with the option of purchasing a lifetime membership as well. Other ways to support the Merced Zoo and the animals inside include making donations.
Currently the Merced Zoo is seeking landscaping tools like rakes, shovels, wheel barrels, and commercial grade water hoses; cleaning supplies like bleach, scrub brushes, and towels; enrichment tools like heavy duty animal toys, balls, bowling pins, children’s toys for ages 0-3, chew toys, and puzzle feeders; grocery store gift cards for purchasing fruits and vegetables; and building supplies like wood, screws, nails, hammers, electric tools. For those who believe they have something else that is not listed but they believe would be useful to the Zoo, it’s encouraged to speak to a zookeeper.
All proceeds from purchases of animal themed gifts inside of the Merced Zoo’s gift shop, which include educational toys, books, and gifts, help support the zoo’s operations, as well purchases made to bring younger ones into the Kiddie Corral to pet and feed kid-friendly animals at the park. The Merced Zoo also has a program that allows animal lovers and nature enthusiasts to adopt an animal, and of course, anyone who would like to volunteer at the Merced Zoo is encouraged to speak with staff members at the zoo.