Snakes removed from Navajo Nation Zoo

Zoo officials find new homes for two gopher snakes and a rattlesnake after continuing cultural concerns

Kids enjoy the company of Eddie the Eagle, Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl at the Navajo Nation Zoo. Photo/Geri Hongeva

Kids enjoy the company of Eddie the Eagle, Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl at the Navajo Nation Zoo. Photo/Geri Hongeva

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation Zoo is no longer a home for two bull or gopher snakes and a rattlesnake because of parents who do not want their children viewing the snakes at the zoo.

The bull snakes were sent to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper, Utah and the rattlesnake was transported to the Staten Island Zoological Society in Staten, New York.

The Navajo Nation Zoo is the only zoo in the U.S. that is managed and owned by an American Indian tribe. More than 3,000 students from various schools on the Navajo Nation visit the Navajo Nation Zoo every year.

Navajo Nation Zoo Manager David Mikesic said the bull snakes were moved to a new home in March and the rattlesnake found a new home in May. He said approximately 25 percent of the teachers who accompanied students expressed parents' concerns about the children seeing the snakes at the zoo.

"It was not a case of fear," Mikesic said. "It goes beyond fear. It was a cultural issue. The parents did not want [the kids] to view, nor breathe the same air as the snakes. If there's a concern that people can't view snakes, why continue to house the snakes here? I want all the classrooms to see all the other animals that we have in the rest of the Discovery Center."

The Discovery Center is home to other classes of animals and mammals, such as spotted skunks, ringtail, Gila monsters, scorpions, spiders, frogs, toads, fish and lizards.

It is home to more than 100 animals representing more than 50 different species. Nearly all the animals housed at the Navajo Nation are injured or orphaned, leaving them unable to be released back into the wild.

The Discovery Center opened June 15 after several months of renovation with new upgrades from the zoo's construction staff.

More information on the zoo is available at www.navajozoo.org or by calling (928) 871-6574.

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