CARLSBAD, N.M. Dressed in matching blue Hawaiian shirts, Janelle Coleman, her husband and their 7 and 9-year-old sons were observing the sights and sounds of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park.
The Houston family traveled across Texas to visit the zoo as part of their summer vacation.
Coleman said her family visited Balmorhea State Park, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains. She hopes her family can visit every national park before her sons graduate from high school. Coleman explained that she and her husband want to give their sons experiences rather than material items.
“Our boys love to hike, but living in Houston we don’t have any terrain, so coming here where they can see mountains and some different things has been really cool,” Coleman said after her family was looking at Maggie the painting bear. “It’s nice to be able to hop from one place to another. They are all kind of close to each other. They have been able to see a bunch of different things. It’s been exciting and this is a really pretty part of the world.”
According to the park’s website, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park have more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The park opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. daily. The final entry into the zoo is 3:30 p.m. as it takes about an hour and a half to visit all of the exhibits. The gift shop is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with all proceeds going toward the zoo.
The walking tour through the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park is 1.3 miles roundtrip. Animals that can be seen during the walking tour are mountain lion, wolves, fox, mule deer, pronghorn, elk, javelina, bobcat, prairie dogs and bison. There was also a reptile exhibit.
However, the biggest attraction at the zoo is Maggie the black bear. Carol Belski, the president of the Friends of the Living Desert, told the Odessa American that Maggie was rescued from a bad situation that Maggie’s mother and sibling didn’t survive.
Maggie is known as the painting bear as she paints with watercolors. The zoo sells those paintings online and at the visitor’s center. The zoo also invites the public to celebrate Maggie’s birthday every year on Jan. 19.
“We are a rescue organization, but we are also an educational tool,” Belski said. “Doing it all on Chihuahuan Desert makes it a pretty unique zoo.”
During the Odessa American’s trip to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, research was being conducted on Bolson tortoises.
Julia Joos, a graduate student at Ohio University, had attached temperature monitors to the back of the turtle’s shells. The monitors reportedly detailed when the turtles would come in and out of their burrowed holes.
“I’m going to use this information to see what habitat is suitable for (the Bolson tortoises) in the future,” she said of the research.