The Roosevelt Park Zoo was established in 1920 with the first animal being a male bison from Montana. The following year a bear den and zoological building were added to the zoo. During the 1940s through the 1960s, the zoo animal population greatly increased and the area started to look like a zoo.The flood of ’69 caused every bird and animal to be moved from the zoo which led to the redesign of the zoo grounds. The foot bridge, a feline house, and a new bear den were constructed.
Throughout the following years to the present, additions of new animals, new exhibits and the participation in the Species Survival Program have greatly enhanced the zoo.
The Roosevelt Park Zoo is Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
1914 – Roosevelt Park Zoo was established by the Minot Park District on April 9, 1914. At that time, there were 6 grey squirrels and 6 fox squirrels.
1920 – The zoo was established in Roosevelt Park. The first zoo animal was a male bison from Montana.
1921 – The Zoological Building was opened to the public on December 25, 1921. The bear den was also constructed with funding from a bond issued through the Minot Park Board.
1922 – “With an acre of park for every 100 inhabitants, Minot’s parks were also making an important contribution to life in the city. The largest was the attractive tree-filled Riverside Park whose 52 acres were located on the Mouse River adjacent to the Theodore Roosevelt Highway. This “pleasure ground of the city,” as a travel book of the times put it, contained a zoo, a swimming pool, and an excellent automobile drive following the river. In September of 1922, after hearing the news of Theodore Roosevelt’s death, Minot’s Park Board adopted a resolution to change the park’s name to Roosevelt Park and to erect a statue there in honor of the former president. The statue was to be a replica of one given to Portland, Oregon by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, a former North Dakotan and a friend of Roosevelt. In 1924 the Great Northern Railway transported the equestrian statue, made by a Los Angeles sculptor, J. Phimister Proctor, from New York to Minot in two crates weighing 4,200 and 2,300 pounds, prepaid by Dr. Coe. It was originally mounted on a base representing the geological formations of the Badlands where Roosevelt had ranched.” (Minot History | Prof. Charles Dickson | Associate Professor | Minot State University)
1930s – Zoo construction was greatly slowed due to the Great Depression. The zoo staff was reduced to two people. The superintendent’s wages were paid by his use of an office and typewriter to continue his editorial work with the Congress of American Parks.
1940s – During and after World War II, salvageable equipment, boiler pipe, and “hog” wire were used to build more pens for the zoo. The zoo now included deer, bison, elk, lions, cougars, black bear, Rhesus monkeys, llama, coyotes, various rodents, and an abundant display of native waterfowl.
1950s-1960s – In the 1950s and continuing through the 1960s more animals were added to the zoo including Fallow deer and Sika deer. The cages and pens were lacking in upkeep and cleanliness. The zoo became a place that people drove by slowly but seldom stopped to visit. The zoo’s condition was not due to apathy on the part of the park system, but simply due to a lack of moneys. In the mid 1960s the community demanded that more be done in the upkeep of the zoo. In response the park board began to appropriate more financial resources for the zoo. Chain link fencing started replacing “hog” wire, old straw and wire shelters gave way to concrete block shelters. The zoo began to resemble a “zoo.”
1969 – The Minot community suffered its greatest flood since 1905. The zoo and park areas were under water for 40 days and 40 nights. Every bird and animal had to be moved. They were kept at the local Burlington Northern stockyards until the water had receded. The flood was a blessing in disguise; it gave the zoo a chance to be redesigned.
1971 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of a new river channel for the Mouse River. The new channel cut the zoo into two areas. Because of this, improvements to the zoo were halted.
1975 – The Park Board allocated $250,000 for zoo construction and a matching grant was obtained through a B.O.R. A new 379-foot bridge was built to connect the “two” zoos. New pens for the hoofed stock were built, all with moat areas. The Children’s Zoo was constructed with the help of the Exchange Club. A new feline house was built to house our lions, tigers, jaguars and cougars.
1979 – A new bear den for the Kodiaks was built to replace the old bear den that was constructed in 1921. This was done by a bond issue approved by 83% of the people.
1980 – Camels were added to the zoo’s collection.
1981 – The Park Board initiated a gate admission at the zoo to help defray costs.
1982 – Zebras were added to the zoo’s collection.
1984 – A master plan for the zoo was written by McFadzean, Everly, and Associates from Mt. Prospect, Illinois.
1985 – According to the master plan, a new parking area and entrance gates were constructed.
1986 – The North American exhibits was started. The inside of the feline exhibit was also remodeled.
1987 – The North American exhibit was completed. The next major exhibit would be the African exhibit. The inside of the education building was also remodeled.
1988 – A bobcat exhibit was added.
1989 – A giraffe exhibit was built and the lemur exhibit was added.
1991 – The zebra, eland and camel exhibits were rebuilt including new barns. Snow leopards were added to the zoo’s collection. The zoo begins participation in the Species Survival Program (SSP) for snow leopards.
1992 – Concrete barns started to replace the old rock shelters; two were completed this year, leaving three to be completed in 1993.
1993 – The new shelters in the hoofed stock area were completed. The zoo exchanged its ring-tailed and brown lemurs for red-ruffed and black & white-ruffed lemurs. These additions were part of the Species Survival Program (SSP) for lemurs.
1994 – The zoo built an African penguin exhibit and begins participation in the Species Survival Program (SSP) for African penguins.
1995 – The African eland exhibit was exchanged for a gemsbok exhibit. The penguin exhibit was opened to the public. A patio area was constructed on the north side of the Education Building. This area was intended for special events and outdoor classroom purposes. A new alligator exhibit was incorporated within the waterfowl area and removed from the existing site.
1996 – Plans were started to add a Discovery Barn/Education exhibit in the Children’s Zoo area. The front entrance was redesigned and all exhibit signs were replaced and updated. The winter of 1996-1997 was the first winter that the zoo was closed.
1997 – During the fall of 1997, excavation began for the Discovery Barn. Pens and buildings were moved in preparation for the building’s opening in the spring of 1998. A new ostrich exhibit was added. A winter holding area attached to the kangaroo exhibit was opened.
1998 – The Discovery Barn opened in spring of 1998.
1999 – Guenther’s dik-dik antelope were added to the zoo’s collection.
2001 – Bongos were added to the zoo’s collection.
2002 – Two Siamang Gibbons were added to the zoo’s collection. First Baby Bongo was born at the Zoo. New Poison Dart frog exhibit was constructed in the Ed Center.
2003 – A young pair of giraffes, and a young pair of Amur Leopards were brought into the zoo both through the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Construction on the North American River Otter Exhibit, built by the Greater Minot Zoological Society. Great Horned Owls are introduced to the zoo.
2004 – The Otter exhibit held its grand opening. Three otters were brought in for the new exhibit. A new tortoise exhibit, and duck pond overlook were constructed by Eagle Scouts & funded by the GMZS. An Amur Leopard cub was born in November.
2005 – West African Crowned Cranes were brought into the zoo and displayed with the bongos. Eagle Scouts projects included a sitting area near the Lemurs. A wild-caught grizzly bear makes his home at the Roosevelt Park Zoo.
2006 – The zoo added a couple colorful paintings to help enrich the visitors zoo experience. The penguin mural was painted on the perimeter wall by the penguin pool and exhibit. It was painted by the Minot area Companions for Children group. The children themselves had a hand at painting the beautiful work of art. We also painted the waterfall backdrop at the entrance of the zoo. The Education Department’s “Wonder Wagon” was constructed. The zoo went through a Strategic Planning Session.
2007 – The Children’s Zoo Barn burnt down in March. With insurance money and donations, we were able to reconstruct the barn and have it open before the end of June. The giraffe feeding station was opened in late June. The concession stand was renovated during the off season and made record profits during the summer. New animals brought to the zoo included a male African Lion, a pair of Trumpeter Hornbills, four Egyptian Tortoises, and a female Chestnut Mandible Toucan. Our three bears were finally introduced and had a wonderful summer entertaining our visitors. Education programs continue to grow including an amazing zoo camp this summer; Penguin Adventures. Our Teens for Planet Earth group was formed this year and they took on cleaning up Wildwood Park in Velva after the snow storm of 2005 devastated the habitat and trail system.
2008 – The Jungle Joe news series started and became a smashing success for the zoo! We had a baby giraffe named Luna on display. She was born in late December 2007. The patrons enjoyed seeing the young baby grow. We also brought in Kirk’s Dik-diks, a Damara Zebra, female African Lion, female Snow Leopard, female Black and White Ruffed Lemur, a pair of Bobcats, and a brand new species at our Zoo, the Japanese Serow. We had a great year with our seasonal attendance of over 74,000 patrons!
2009 – RPZ acquired a male bongo from Denver Zoo as part of the AZA’s SSP breeding program. RPZ also acquired 2 young snow leopards, a family of red kangaroos, and various reptiles and amphibians such as, veiled chameleons, crested geckos, and Mediterranean geckos. In fall, a female musk ox and female Amur tiger were also added to the collection. Our young female giraffe was shipped to Jacksonville Zoo in Florida.
2011 – On May 31st, an evacuation order was issued due to potential flooding threat. We evacuated animals with the help of staff from the Zoo & Minot Park District as well as numerous volunteers from the Minot Zoo Crew, other ND zoos and general Minot community. Fortunately, the river crested and the threat of flood seemed to have subsided. Zoo officials were considering bringing animals back. After a 5-inch rainfall occurred upstream in Canada on June 18th, the threat of flooding was imminent. All 40 buildings and structures were evacuated as best we could. On June 22, the entire zoo flooded. Most of the zoo and its contents were under 8 to 12 feet of water for almost 3 weeks. Following the devastation of the flood, animals were moved to locations throughout the US for long term housing. We kept a small number of species at a Ward County Warehouse which became known as Zoo North.
2012 – Staff worked arduously to restore the grounds. FEMA and Insurance helped offset some of the cost to rebuild and clean the Zoo. Governor Dalrymple and other state officials came to volunteer their time and talents to help beautify the zoo.
2013 – The zoo finally reopens after a long recovery of almost 2 years. 80% of the specimens were brought back and after countless hours from volunteers, the zoo is back! We were able to use the new Visitor Center for Admissions, Gift Shop, Classroom space, Administrative Staff, and a new Tamarin Exhibit. We also added a train ride, made a major overhaul of the Discovery Barn, and were able to get a new PA system. Behind the scenes, we added a necropsy room. In staffing we added Dr. Ann Olson to our staff.
2014 – The Zoo began construction on a new Red Panda exhibit. The Minot Park District and Minot Zoo Crew helped restore the iconic Zoology building and was renovated into an aviary. Animals continued to return home as habitats were finished including dik dik, snow leopards, and serow. The penguins returned in the summer of 2014. The otter exhibit required much work post-flood and was still under construction.
2015 – The Red Panda exhibit, Aviary and Otter exhibits were completed and debuted for opening day. Bongos were the last species to make their way home and arrived in late fall. Our 6th giraffe calf was born on Christmas Day and named Mokolo.
2016 – New animals included a female bobcat, female dik dik, and female otter. Our 5th giraffe calf, Zuri, moved to Miami Zoo. The Zoo was re-accredited at the 2016 AZA Convention in San Diego. In fall of 2016, burrowing owls were added to zoo and staff worked on a new exhibit for them in the Discover Barn. The Zoo participated in strategic planning with consultants SBO.
2017 – The Zoo was the beneficiary at Community Rocks! and all proceeds will support a goat bridge project in the Children’s Zoo. Exhibit development projects include habitat enhancements at Red Panda, Children’s Zoo barn & Otter waterfall. The covered patio at the Aviary was destroyed due to snow load and replaced. The historic lion cage from the 1920s was removed from the exterior of the historic Zoology building.