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County Executive's Office

Henry Vilas Zoo’s Rescue Efforts Bring New Animals to Enjoy Through Education Programs

September 05, 2012
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858; Ronda Schwetz, Henry Vilas Zoo Director, 608.266.4732.
County Executive


Henry Vilas Zoo’s animal rescue efforts have brought three new residents to the zoo’s growing family, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


The zoo has successfully rehabilitated three species native to Wisconsin – an eastern screech owl owlet, an injured opossum joey, and an injured juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird.  The animals will soon be available to visit with area families exclusively through the zoo’s  animal ambassador education programs.


“The zoo plays a large part in protecting animal populations through its world-renown mating programs, and at times, through animal rescue,” said Parisi.  “Our three new, rescued residents will increase the already tremendous diversity of our free zoo.  I hope visitors will come and visit these two success stories soon.”


The eastern screech owl owlet arrived from the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo in Kansas. The baby owl was orphaned and hand raised.  Because of this the baby now associates with people and would not survive in the wild.  Owls are birds of prey, predatory birds that use their strong talons and feet to kill their prey.


The zoo received its Virginia opossum joey from Dane County Humane Society’s Four Lakes Wildlife Center.  The baby is a local orphan that was injured by wildlife (most likely a raccoon) while being rehabilitated with its brothers and sisters.  The Virginia opossum is North America’s only native marsupial (animals with pouches).


The male hummingbird also arrived at the zoo through Dane County Humane Society Four Lakes Wildlife Center.  He has is missing part of one wing and is unable to fly, and would not be able to survive in the wild. This species migrates annually through Wisconsin.

“Helping find a home for injured animals that would otherwise have no place to go is something we are pleased to partner with other zoos and rehabilitation centers on,” said Ronda Schwetz, Zoo Director. “By telling these animal's stories we are fulfilling our mission to help educate our visitors to the issues facing wildlife and what our visitors can do to help."


The zoo is open 365 days a year from 9:30am to 5pm and admission is, as always, completely free.  The public can also keep up to date on everything new at the zoo at vilaszoo.orgor on the zoo’s Facebook page at


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