Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park - Carlsbad, New Mexico - living museum with animals native to New Mexico
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park located in Carlsbad, New Mexico is a 1.3-mile self-guided tour that had exhibits both indoors and outdoors. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, this "living museum,'' as it's called, has animals native to the Chihuahuan Dessert, where the facility is located, so visitors can learn more about this unique area of the United States. The park also focuses on plants from around the world.
One of the most popular exhibits at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park is the wolf exhibit. The park is home to a number of gray wolves, which are a part of the national Species Survival Program to help boost their numbers. Gray wolves are endangered, and the park's participation in this program helps ensure that the species survives for decades and, hopefully, centuries to come.
The aviary is another popular part of the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park. This walk-through structure is filled with birds common to the area, or that once filled the skies in New Mexico before they became endangered. Some of the species that can be seen at this aviary include hawks, owls, turkeys, and eagles. The aviary is also home to a number of smaller songbirds. Outside, other animals featured at this zoo include the mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, elk, bison, foxes, and pronghorns. There's also a nocturnal exhibit, reptile house, waterfowl pond, and prairie dog village.
The Green House is an important part of this facility, as it houses species of succulent plants and cacti from across the country and around the world. Some of the plants found in the Green House are several feet high, while others are very small. The entire Green House at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park showcases a number of habitats, and some of the species of cacti displayed in this area can also be found for sale at the park's gift shop.
Before leaving the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park, guests should consider making a purchase from the park's resident star, Maggie the Painting Black Bear. Maggie was found by a wildlife rehabilitation specialist after being left for dead, and after the bear was nursed back to health, she found a new home at this zoo. The park's curator at the time, Holly Payne, had heard about other animals participating in art therapy programs after being traumatized, and she introduced the cub to using non-toxic tempura paints with rewards of dried cranberries. Each abstract painting is sold to help pay for her care and the care of other animals at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park.
The park is open year-round, with longer hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Admission ranges from 50 cents to $5 per person, based on group size and age, and children under the age of six are free. Although visitors can see most of the animals during any time of the year, many believe that the best time to visit is in May during their annual Mescal Roast, which features traditional Mescalero Apache food, dancing, and art.
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