Touted as a $10.3 million dolllar expansion and inspired by Oklahoma's 11 distinct life zones (second to no other state), the exhibit...
"Featured species include grizzly and black bear, cougar, paddlefish, turkey vulture, river otter, western diamondback rattlesnake, American alligator, roadrunner, bison, collared lizard (mountain boomer) and alligator snapping turtle. "
Much to my sweaty forehead's pleasure, we were happy to find that even on a typical hot and muggy OKC summer sweltery day, every animal was active and completely viewable, thanks to their "visitor friendly" designed habitats. The wolf pack was pacing, the cougar was crawling, the grizzlies gesticulating and even the bald eagle with the clipped wings strutted eminently on the floor of it's habitat.
Highlight for me was the indoor, climate controlled (ahhhh....a 75 degree respite from the gnarly 90+ outdoor temps and 80% humidity) displays centered around a massive pond aquarium wherein I learned to tell the difference between families of crappie... ("I was told it's pronounced "craw-py, not crappy...what a shame") , blue gills, basses, and catfish - nothing like having live, swiming examples of the finned fishies in front of your face to help a non-angler distinguish their features.
It was in this A/C cave of coolness and calm that I got up close with an alligator snapping turtle the size of Gamera...okay, Gamera's little brother, but it was big enough to make me "step away from the plexiglass" wearing the same expression of disgust and fear when I saw Windows '95 demoed for the first time.
Big crowds of ankle biters pressed their sweaty faces against the 20' long plexi wall that afforded them both above and below water views of the enclave of swift footed and supersonic swimming otters. Heck, there were even a few beaver plodding around the otter environent, happily sharing their alloted space with their mammallian brothers of the pond and stream environment.
Highlight for the girls was an enclosed building darkend and lit with black lights, and decked out to resemble the interior of a barn, complete with hundreds of living, flying, hanging and feeding bats, rats, opossums, snakes, tarantulas, owls, and skunks -- all behind the protective custody of 1" plexiglass. Am I the only one who finds that watching bats frolic and flutter around has the same "doe-in-headlights effect" on me as a bubbling aquarium, or roaring fireplace -- soothing in an odd sort of way?
Later in the day, I spotted a couple of uniformed zoo-ployees carrying pint sized plastic containers with official looks on their faces. Using my natural inbred talent for prey-stalking, I managed to track them from their "Employees Only" hut down to the avian section - basically, I followed them. The reward for my tracking abilities were my daughters squeals of delight as they got to feed meal worms to dive bombing Scissortail Flycathers (state bird) in the enclosed aviary.
Exiting the bird cage, we stopped to listen in on a Zookeeper emparting some wild turkey wisdom to a group of elderly charges outside the galliformes paddock. As she wrapped up her brief lecture on the dire need for conservation efforts to provide for natural habitat for Oklahoma's indiginous wildlife so that popularly hunted species such as the wild turkey can thrive, my 7.5 year old chimed in, rather loudly...