New York State Zoo at Thompson Park  E-Newsletter
May 2015

In This Issue
Directors Note
Summer Hours
Zoo Events
Garden Club
Education Programs
Volunteering at the Zoo
Otter Dental Day
Department Wishlists
Leader of the Pack Program
Goings on in Guest Services
One Last Note...

We are open 10am-5pm everyday effective March 30th, 2015.

Admission into the Zoo is:

$9 Adults
$7 Seniors
$6 Kids (3-12)
Kids under 3 are free! 


About Us

The 32-acre Thompson Park Zoo is located in historic Thompson Park in Watertown, NY.  This one-of-a kind zoo exhibits over 100 animals representing 65 species of New York's abundant, threatened or endangered indigenous wildlife.  Further information on all programming, special events, and pricing can be found at our Facebook page ( or by visiting


Dear zoo supporters,


Zoos can be stinky.  It's just the nature of the business.  But they can also smell like bubbling cheese, crispy ciabatta, and fresh tomatoes.  At the New York State Zoo, those smells come from our Wildside Café - with an all new menu!  Stop by for our meal deal: a sandwich, chips, and drink, for as little as $6.99.  My favorite sandwich is the Turkey and Provolone panini with cranberries and almonds.  We also have wraps, salads, soups and quesadillas, plus hot dogs, soft pretzels, and sausages with peppers and onions.  Come and feast with the beasts!  And don't forget that zoo members receive 10% off.


In other zoo news, our 8 in 8 are finally here!  Zoo staff have been working diligently over the last eight weeks to develop these new features.  You heard about the first four in last month's e-newsletter.  The final four include:


1.    Do you have a green thumb?  The zoo has formed a Garden Club that allows volunteers free access to the zoo to maintain their own patches of garden.  Details are included later in the newsletter.


2.    Raptors use their large wings to soar through the sky.  Come and see how your wingspan measures up against some of our favorite eagles and owls.  This classic zoo feature was created by local artists.


3.    Two new animals are on display in the Discovery Center - a ribbon snake and a tiger salamander.  Come meet these new animal ambassadors, and while you're there, say "hi" to our frogs, fish, and very impressive timber rattlesnakes.


4.    Are you ready to embark on an entirely new zoo adventure?  Pick up a Zoo Quest passport on your next visit!  During your journey you will unravel clues to find some of our most interesting animals and learn what makes them so unique.  After solving each clue, you'll receive a stamp in your Zoo Quest passport.  At the end of your Quest, take your passport to the café or gift shop for 10% off any item.


The best news of all?  Zoo staff are are not resting on our 8 in 8 laurels - we're introducing new features throughout 2015.  It's going to be a great year.


I'll see you at the zoo!


Matthew Holdgate, Ph.D.

Executive Director








Summer Open Hours
We are now back to our regular seasonal hours! Everyday, we are now open from 10am-5pm. Stop by and see us! Lots of exciting changes are happening around the Zoo in the coming months, be sure to check it all out.


Upcoming Zoo Events- Save the Date!

May 15th- The Early Bird Golf Tournament
Join us on May 15th for some fun at the Watertown Golf Club at Thompson Park. There are still spots for teams and for sponsorship opportunities so be sure to sign up soon! 

Thank you to our event sponsors:

Major Sponsor: Advanced Business Systems
Lunch Sponsor: Purcell Construction

Contest Sponsor: Drs. Dan and Maya Gray

Hole Sponsors:
-Advanced Business Systems
-Krafft Cleaning
-Michael Alteri with Morgan Stanley
-Otis Technology
-Al and Jean Gianfagna
-Riccardo's  Market

July 31st and August 1st - Brew at the Zoo and Wine too!

Save the Date for our 8th Annual Brew at the Zoo event. We have a lot of new and exciting changes for this years event which we will be sharing between now and then. We will also be posting a list of participating businesses ahead of time, so you can see all the variety to anticipate before you even get here for the evening! So get your babysitters lined up now and take the day off of work, the Zoo is going to be the place to be!

October 24th and 25th - Boo at the Zoo

Also save the date for our annual Halloween Celebration! If you have any interest in the creative planning of this event or volunteering to man a treat station either of the days please email We would love to have you help and it's so much fun! 


Zoo Garden Club


Education Programs




 Get outside and learn some new things this month! Pre-registration is requested, and pre-payment is encouraged to secure your spot at any of these programs. Call 315.755.0895 or email for more information. 



Our bears, Tilly, Terra and Tess are always playing around. Come see them up close and personal at our Breakfast for Bears! This bear enrichment is sure to be a great time for the whole family. 

May 9th at 10:00am. This program costs $15/person, $40/a family of 4, 20% off for members. Additional family members can be added on to the family packet for a reduced rate. 



Also happening this month-


Wild Tots(ages 3-5)- Friday, May 1st at 10:00am. Animal Movements


 After the Wild Tot's meet some of our Animal Ambassadors, we will be exploring all the different ways that animals get around! 



Homeschool Academy-





Parents, looking for a fun and interactive program to include as part of your home school curriculum? We've got just the thing and it's FREE; join us on May 20th from 1-3 at the NYS Zoo in Watertown for the Tug Hill Bird Quest presented as part of the NYS Zoo Home School Academy. If you are interested in attending, please contact Fawn at 315-779-2239 or email to register.Check out  Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust  for other programs throughout the summer! A special thanks to our friends at the NYS Zoo for allowing us to be part of their Home School Academy program


 Junior Animal Keeper- Scouts edition.

Students get to learn to care for some of our animal ambassadors in our education collection. Food, water, and habitat cleaning are on the top of the list but we will also discuss what makes these animals unique and how thier care is different from the typical household pets. This class is perfect for meeting the requirements for scout badges. 

May 14th- 4:30-5:30

Program Cost: 10/child. Members recieve a 20% off discount. Please call 315.782.6180 to pre-register. Email Kristen at or call 315.755.0895 with questions.





Registration is now open for our summer camps! Weekly dates and topics are listed below. Information and registration details can be found on our website here



Session One July 13-17: Water Worlds

Meet the cast of creatures inhabiting our waters including our otters, amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates. Children will learn about special adaptations that allow animals to thrive in aquatic habitats.  We will discuss the need for healthy aquatic ecosystems and major threats to these habitats.

Session Two July 20-24: Feasts for the Beasts 
What is life like at the top of food chain? Campers will learn about the special adaptations of our large carnivores and birds of prey allowing them to be the top predators of the earth and sky.


Session Three July 27-31: Leapers and Creepers
Meet the fascinating creatures lurking behind every corner, from slithering snakes and slimy salamanders to creepy crawly invertebrates. Campers will learn how this elusive cast of characters play important roles in the ecosystem.


Session Four August 3-7: Jr. Biologist 
Walk in the footsteps a wildlife biologist! This week's activities are designed to inspire campers to explore the wildlife around them. Campers will create a field journal and spend the week filling it with observations of the animals we will see on our nature walks.  They will discover how observations and data collection are used to learn about and protect wild species.


Session Five August 10-14: Amazing Animal Kingdom
Campers will meet our Animal Ambassadors from around the animal kingdom and discuss their unique adaptations and lifestyles.  Each day we will cover one major taxa; Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates.  Campers will discover what sets each group apart from the other animal groups.


Session Six August 17-21: Backyard Biology 
Learn about conservation projects you can do at your own home! Activities will build upon camper's sense of wonder about nature and inspire them to think about their impact on our planet.  We will also spend time getting get to know the animals at the farm, and discuss how to care for proper pets while focusing on why wild animals don't make good pets. 




Full Day Session(1 week): 8:00am - 4:00 pm               Member Fee: $128.00       Non Member Fee $160.00

½ Day Session(1 week)  option: 8:00am - 12:00 pm     Member Fee: $68.00        Non Member Fee $85.00


Option to extend the full day to 5:00 for an additional fee $7.50 per day for Members and Non Members.






More information on any of these programs can be found here. Click the education tab to see all our offerings.


If you have anything you would like to see added to our education offerings, or any suggestions please email We are always looking to better serve our community needs!


Volunteering at the Zoo -Transitions with our Program

Above: Volunteer Corey shows off our Bearded Dragon at Mountain Community Homes Earth Day Event

We want to thank all of our loyal volunteers and welcome anyone interested into the mix during our next volunteer training on May 2nd at 9:00am.

Kristen and Elizabeth are currently working at changes to our volunteer program to better mesh with the overall goals of the Zoo as an organization. Changes coming down the line will be a new and updated manual, new training levels, and schedualed opportunities for participants.

Whether you are able to come in once a year or once a week, we always appreciate the help. Our system now allows us to keep accurate count of volunteering hours per person up to date, which can be used for resumes, college applications or military credit as warranted.

If you are interested RSVPing to attend this short orientation, or just have questions please email Elizabeth at or call 315.755.0894


Otter Dental Day



- April 29, 2015 - Annie the otter has brought smiles to the faces of thousands of zoo visitors.  Now, thanks to the help of a local dentist, Annie has something to smile about.  After damaging her teeth over the winter, Annie was brought to the North Country Animal Health Center to receive a root canal and crowns.  At the helm was Dr. Peter M. Virga, DDS, from the Watertown Dental Health Group.  Also present was Dr. Shannon Vicario, zoo veterinarian from the North Country Animal Health Center, assisted by Zach Matott, LVT, and Amy Wonderly, LVT.


"Annie was a great patient, considering it was her first trip to the dentist," said Dr. Vicario.  "She went down without a fuss, and recovered quickly from the procedure." Dr. Matthew Holdgate from the New York State Zoo attended the procedure.  "The skill and professionalism of Drs. Virga and Vicario cannot be overstated," said the zoo's new Executive Director.  "Neither batted an eye when I requested their help.  It's great to know the community is full of people who are ready and able to support the zoo when we call."

The procedure was also attended by zookeeper Rachael Rice, who remained at Annie's side to comfort her and ensure that when Annie woke up that she saw a familiar face.  Zoo employee Nick Stacey was present to document the procedure.


North American River Otters use their sharp canine teeth for catching and grasping prey, while their molars are used to crush and grind the shells of invertebrates, such as molluscs.  Annie is one of four North American River Otters currently exhibited at the New York State Zoo.  Their diet at the zoo includes fish, meat, clams, and more, such as an occasional peanut for a treat.  The exhibit is sponsored by Carthage Federal Savings and Loan.



Department Wishlists


A great way to support the Thompson Park Zoo is by donating items that our various departments need. These items have been specifically requested, but we are grateful for any assistance in any form! Please contact us at 315.782.6180 if you have any questions. Thanks for your consideration!



We are in particular need of a UTV, which will help our maintenance and keeper staff immensely.





  • Small Coolers for outreach (hard sided with locking lid)
  • Washable paints and other art supplies
  • Classroom Rug
  • Plastic Toy Animals
  • Saftey glasses/goggles

Guest Services

  • Radio Flyer Wagons, double seated.
  • Wheelchairs
  • Wood Pellets
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Scrub Sponges

Animal Care

  • Hard Boomer Balls
  • 5 Gallon Buckets
  • Unseasoned Venison
  • Beef rib bones
  • Food Scales
  • Water Cooler bottles
  • PVC Pipe 
  • Firehose
  • Non toxic bubbles
  • Hand Warmers
  • Plug in Boot Dryers
  • Gas Powered Pressure Washer
  • Pallet Jack
  • Cordless Dremel
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • sauna tubes
  • Plastic barrels
  • Ox tails
  • Cake pans
  • Jello molds (big)


  • Leaf Rakes
  • UTV
  • Snow shovels
  • Square nosed Dirt Shovels



Leader of the Pack Program

Do you know a young person who has gone above and beyond to make the community or environment a better place? The New York State Zoo's new Leader of the Pack program is the perfect opportunity to recognize North Country youth and youth groups who have met "the call of the wild" and made a difference. Did someone in your community start a recycling program? Does a young person you know selflessly give their time to a cause, and do they try to inspire others to do the same? Teachers, coaches, and mentors are invited to nominate a young person or group by filling out the nomination form here. Nominees must be between 8 and 18 years old and be residents of Jefferson, Lewis, or St. Lawrence counties. Nomination forms and questions about the program can be sent to . Nominations will be accepted through September 30th, 2015. Zoo staff will review submissions and contact the "Leaders" starting in October 2015.




The "pack" of pups from spring 2014 here at the Zoo. 





Goings on in Guest Services   

Lots of exciting changes are coming down the line this summer for our Visitor Center! New lines in the gift shop, new exhibit animals and excitingly a new cafe' menu! The Wildside Cafe' is now serving its new menu. Try it out on your next visit, its an great affordable option for a nice lunch without having to leave the park. For example, a turkey panini on ciabatta with provolone, cranberries and almonds plus chips and a drink for just $7.99! Wraps, quesadillas and salads are also available. 



Animal Adoption Program 

Looking for that perfect gift for birthdays, graduations or any other event in your life? Our animal adoptions and programs provide  truly special experiences and help us spread awareness of our native species in one grand gesture! Packages are below, and there is one to fit every budget. 

Have someone in your life who has had long held aspirations to work with animals, or would  just love to see the critters up close? Our Become a Zookeeper program is an unique experience that lets someone follow around a keeper here at the Zoo during their morning rotation. This program is scheduled on a case by case basis around your needs, so call 315.755.0894 for more information. The cost is $80/person. 

Animal Adoptions are another unique option!
The adoption form and payment options are available  here . If you loved our animal art on sale last summer, you will love the option to engage in your own animal art experience at the $250 dollar level. 


 $50 Dollar Level-

  • Adoption Certificate, 5x7 Picture of the Animal, Fact Sheet about the animal to go out immediately
  • Name on the website/newsletter as animal parent
  • Monthly report on the animal sent in the mail for three months after the adoption.

$100 Dollar Level-

  • All of the above
  • Certificate for admission to an education department enrichment program for up to 4 people
  • Certificate for 50% off one item in the gift shop

$150 Dollar Level-

  • All of the Above
  • Behind the scenes tour of that animal*

$250 Dollar Level-

  • All of the Above
  • Painting encounter with the animal. This includes watching the animal "create" a masterpiece on canvas that the adoptive parent can take home.*

*Depending on the temperament or current training schedule of the animal, substitutions of animals involved may be required. 


Animals for adoption-

Wolverines ,Grey Wolves, Black Bears,Bobcat,Canada Lynx ,Roosevelt Elk,North American River Otter,Mountain Lion






Thank you to our new Adoptive Parents from since December:


Caitlyn Graves and Jim Scordo- North American River Otters

Sally Cullerton- Canada Lynx

Ryder Donahue- Roosevelt Elk

Cambel Donahue- Black Bears

Jaxon Donahue- Canada Lynx 

Robert Howard- North American River Otters

Kameron Smith- North American River Otters

Amanda Roberts- Bobcats

Billy Brennen- North American River Otters

Henry Brennen- Roosevelt Elk

Gretta Maitag- Black Bear

William Maitag- Mountain Lion

Cameron and Kaden Lee- Black Bear

Heuvelton 1st Grade Classroom- Gray Wolves

The Moncrief Family- Mountain Lion





One Last Thing

Be sure to keep track of us on Facebook to hear all the latest news about events, animals and updates! Follow us at Things like the Butterfly House opening (Memorial Day weekend!) and other special events will be posted throughout this month, so check it out. 


Feel free to contact us with any questions at
We're here to help you!
The Staff at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park