Call of the Wild Speaker Series: Coexisting with Wolves

For those who are lucky enough to go to Yellowstone National Park to see wolves know the thrill of seeing them in their natural environment. I felt honored to watch an Alpha male and a pup dance with a bison on a hillside with a researcher in Yellowstone 10 years ago. We watched as the male with a pup in tow circled around behind the large male bison over and over again. The bison was much too large for the two of them to take, but the researcher suspected the pup was getting a lesson from the adult male. We watched this amazing display for 20 minutes through a spotting scope — it is one of my most cherished wildlife experiences.

 There is something magical about seeing and being in the presence of a wolf, which is probably why the wolf has been such a major character in stories for centuries.  It is amazing to see such a diverse standpoint in story telling over one animal.  Even though some cultures held the wolf in high regard and wrote epics about how brave and loyal a wolf was, unfortunately more often than not the species played the “bad guy”.  As a result of these sinister portrayals conservationists find they need to spend a great deal of time dispelling myths about this social carnivore.

This is the first installment for what will be a blog series, written to celebrate our fantastic upcoming  Call of the Wild Speaker Series  events about wolves , coming up on November 11 and 12, with renowned wolf expert Dr. Douglas Smith. In the series, we will spotlight some of the efforts going on in this country to ensure that this beautiful carnivore will continue share our landscape.

November 11th at 7:00 pm come to our Wolves and Wine event, sip wine, listen to stories from wolf  researcher Dr. Douglas Smith and listen to the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra as they perform Peter and the Wolf.

November 12th at 4:00 pm Come for a presentation by Dr. Douglas Smith on the Wolves of Yellowstone. 

To purchase tickets and for more information about these events click here .

Come back for more in this exciting “Coexisting with Wolves” blog series.

A message from a Houston Zoo intern in Borneo

Lyndsey Stanton is an intern in the carnivore section at the Houston Zoo.  She was searching for an opportunity to see conservation in action and gain some field experience.  She approached us in July and inquired about our conservation partners.  After some discussion she felt the Borneo project was ideal.  We connected her with the Borneo folks, and the next thing we knew she was booking her flights. 

Enjoy Lyndsey’s message below. 

Orangutan using rope bridge

Hello from Borneo! I have been in Borneo for a little over two weeks and have already learned and seen so much! I’ve spent a great amount of time in the jungle helping with research. I’ve helped with small mammal trapping, used for measurements and blood samples in order to attempt to learn how many small mammals are in the area, camera trapping animals in the jungle, and tracking a radio-collared slow loris. I’ve also participated in a few other activities including learning to climb very tall trees up to the canopy, and helping to build a rope bridge for orangutans needing to cross nearby tributaries. I’ve seen many animals including, elephants, crocodiles, proboscis monkeys, orangutans, macaques, hornbills, monitor lizards, a slow loris, civets, and more.


This has been the most amazing experience of my life! I’ve become friends with the other students (all from different countries) and even learned a little Malay. Danau Girang Field Center is simply wonderful and I just don’t want to leave. Thankfully I have another two weeks here! I’ll update more soon.

Meet the Staff: Mollie Coym

Hometown: Houston, TX

Department/Title: Senior Bird Keeper

How long have you worked at the Houston Zoo? About 5 years.

How long have you worked in your field? Over 8 years

Favorite Animals: Blue and Gold Macaw; Attwater’s Prairie Chickens

Do you have any animals at home?: I have a Blue and Gold Macaw named Trinity.


“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Special Interests: I like to travel and I’m a 4th degree black belt in martial arts.

What made you want to be a zookeeper?

I had many pets as a kid and always loved animals…basically, it just seemed like a fun job!

Education/Training: I earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Houston in 2002. I’m working on a Master’s from George Mason University in Zoo and Aquarium Leadership.

Previous Jobs: I worked at the Downtown Aquarium for two years and Moody Gardens for one year. I also volunteered at the Houston Zoo for a while.  I came to the Houston Zoo because I really enjoyed working with the great people and animals.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a zookeeper?

Volunteer or intern in a department with animals you think you’d like to work with.  This will give you hands on experience and lets you see if it is really something you want to pursue as a career.

What’s your favorite animal story?

One of the bird species I work with is the endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chicken.  This year we received the exciting news that several birds successfully raised and fledged chicks in the wild.  Since the captive breeding program started in the early 1990’s, many of the captive raised birds have been released to the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Texas City Prairie Preserve, and private land in Goliad, Texas. While many of these birds have made nests, laid eggs, and hatched chicks, this is the first time released birds in the wild have raised and fledged their own young.  This is great news for the captive breeding and release program because it proves that captive raised Attwater’s Prairie Chickens have the ability to be productive in the wild.


Mi Aventura en Zoo Boo/ My Adventure in Zoo Boo

¡Gracias por regresar a leer mi segundo blog de esta serie! Recuerda que también está escrita en ingles ahí abajito de la versión en español. (In ENGLISH below) Disfruta, y compártelo con tus amigos especialmente por Facebook y Twitter.  Y recuerda que si tienes alguna pregunta o comentario que no te de pena escribirlo al final de esta pagina.

Hace dos Viernes me desperté muy alegre porque por primera vez este año abrió el evento de Zoo Boo!

Desde que empecé mis practicas aquí en el Zoológico de Houston e visto todos los ingredientes que le ponen a la poción de Zoo Boo dentro de la caldera mágica. Lo que no me dijeron era que esta poción me iba a dar efectos de felicidad y quizá me haría brincar de emoción! Si hubiera sabido esto antes, tal vez me hubiera preparado mejor. Pero bueno, durante mi tiempo aqui he ido a las reuniones y en cada  reunión hablan sobre cada cosa relacionada con el evento y las responsabilidades de cada departamento. Es aquí donde realmente aprendí que es necesario que todos los departamentos de una organización se apoyen y trabajen juntos.

Decidí asistir al evento como voluntaria para poder ver la transformación de un evento planeado en papel a una cosa visible y exitosa. El primer día que estuve ahí  me pusieron en la sección llamada Festival of Fun al lado de los Elefantes en el McNair Asian Elephant Habitat que viene siendo uno de los lugares que mas me gusta visitar dentro del zoológico.  En el Festival of Fun hay varios  juegos para los pequeños y pueden ganar premios por solamente participar.

Al siguiente día me toco asistir en las estaciones que rodeaban la Piscina de Reflección, o mas bien llamada The Reflection Pool.  A pesar de que se me cansaron los pies de tanto caminar, el día estuvo maravilloso.  En cuanto abrieron las puertas de la entrada se lleno de niños y niñas disfrazados y ansiosos por coleccionar dulces.  Las mesas de tatuajes temporales se ocuparon y el Monster Mural se cubrió de colores diferentes.  Los pequeños no podían creer que alguien les estaba dando permiso de pintar  una pared con marcadores!

La actividad que mas me asombro fue el TXU Energy Monster Mashquerade.  El DJ Captain Armando, vestido de Pirata, formo a los niños que querían participar y los llevo a hacer un desfile de disfraces.  Y luego, al terminar el desfile entraron los miembros del Aldine Dance Company vestidos como animales salvajes y les enseñaron a los niños y padres como hacer el baile de la canción “Thriller”.

El primer fin de semana Zoo Boo atrajo 30,092 personas y hemos recibido muchas felicitaciones por el éxito.  Todavía queda este fin de semana (Viernes 28 de Octubre – Lunes 31 de Octubre) para que puedes venir a disfrutar  y compartir tu experiencia con nosotros. ¡No te lo pierdas!

Si aun no haz leído mi serie de blogs haz clic aquí! Y si quieres mas información sobre este evento visita la pagina web


Thank you for returning to read my second blog post in my series! For those of you that are just now joining us, my blog series, written in both English and Spanish, will continue through mid-December.  You will find the English version located below the Spanish one.  I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures as a Houston Zoo intern and please, don’t be afraid to leave your questions or comments. Share this with your friends via Facebook and Twitter!

Two Fridays ago I woke up very excited and sleepy, but mostly excited because it was the grand opening of this year’s Zoo Boo. Also, it was my very first time being here for this event and I can’t believe it took me this long.

For the past few weeks I have been watching the staff stir up a rather exciting Zoo Boo potion into their Special Events cauldron.  I wish they would’ve warned me about the side effects because then I would’ve understood why I kept having this urge to jump up and smile every 5 minutes. Weird? No! At Zoo Boo it is perfectly normal to be thrilled, maybe because of all the candy they give you, but regardless, I fit in just fine. Although The Houston Zoo is made up of MANY different departments,  they all come together and discuss what every one’s role is for the event.  They go over everything you could possibly think of which has taught me that it truly is important for everyone in an organization to support each other and work together in order for everything to be successful. The Zoo’s ability to do so is really visible during the event because it’s so organized and each staff member knows how to help. I couldn’t wait to be a part of it and watch it unfold from plans on paper into an actual event. That is why I gladly volunteered to assist them in any way.

On the first day I was asked to help out at the Festival of Fun where the group Best Entertainers set up carnival games and gave the kids a prize for their participation.  My favorite part was seeing all the different costumes that came through and watching the kids play enthusiastically.  Oh, and lucky for me the Festival of Fun is located right next to the recently opened McNair Asian Elephant Habitat!  I really enjoyed being able to look back and see babies Tupelo and Baylor play around in their new home.

During the next two days as I volunteered, I walked around the Reflection Pool area and made sure that each station’s volunteers had everything they needed. I got to see how successful the Monster Mural is and just how much kids love the Zoo Boo tattoos. I also got to see the TXU Energy Monster Mashquerade up close as the children, lead by DJ Captain Armando, showed off their costumes during the parade and then gathered to learn the “Thriller” dance with the Aldine Dance Group.

Overall, the first two weekends of Zoo Boo were successful and everyone seemed to enjoy the activities. The first weekend alone attracted 30,092 visitors! Now that the weather has cooled down and Halloween is quickly approaching, we expect to see many more princesses and heroes come through our entrance! I hope you and your little one(s) won’t miss out on the last weekend of the festivities: Friday, October 29- Monday, October 31!

If you haven’t already read the Intro to this series, you can find it HERE! Also, if you’d like more information about Zoo Boo visit our page

Water (Snakes), Water (Snakes) Everywhere…

This is the next in a series on snakes that’s being written for you by The Houston Zoo’s Herpetology Department Supervisor, Judith Bryja. Our Herp Department knows their stuff, and since we get so much interest in snakes, Judith is writing this informative blog series each week just for you!  If you’d like to read the series from the beginning, click here.

Frequenting the same habitat as the venomous water moccasin or cottonmouth, water snakes are numerous in species and numbers. They prefer wooded areas near slow moving water.  Swamps, ponds, marshes, bayous, small streams, even muddy ditches are all places where you can find these snakes. 

Their diet consists mostly of frogs and fish.  Babies are born live usually in the early fall.  They’re excellent swimmers but will spend considerable time on land and sunning themselves on submerged logs.  When swimming (unlike the cottonmouth which holds its head high and with the back visible) the head is held just barely out of the water and the body is mostly submerged. 

Like most snakes, their first reaction to a threat is to get away, but if they cannot, they will vigorously defend themselves by striking and biting and by releasing a foul smelling liquid from their scent glands. There are about 10 species in Texas with about half of them occurring in the Houston area.  We will look at what are probably the 3 most commonly encountered.

The broad banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata confluens)

Color is variable but usually the background is yellow, brown, or even red.  Wide irregular bands of black or brown break up the ground color.  The yellowish belly has random splotches of black/brown.  They have a dark stripe that runs from the eye to the end of the mouth.  Except for brighter colors, babies look the same as adults.  Adult size is 20-30 inches. 

The yellow-bellied water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster)

Color is grey-green (though sometimes darker to almost black).  The back may have indistinct darker crossbars.  The belly is bright yellow as is the area around the mouth.  Babies are heavily patterned and have a pink hue. Average adult size is 24-36 inches.

The diamond-backed water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)

Color is any shade of olive, grey, or brown with dark markings which look sort of like chain link fencing or diamonds (hence the common name).  The belly is yellowish with dark scattered crescent shaped marks.  The head is large and flattened with a distinct neck; this is a good example of why the “triangle shaped” head thing does not work to distinguish venomous from nonvenomous snakes.  Babies look pretty much the same, just brighter.  This is our largest water snake with an average adult size of 30-48 inches.   It is also in general our most cantankerous water snake, not hesitant to get right into the thrashing, striking, biting, spewing stinky stuff part of its defense repertoire. 

At present, we have a broad-banded water snake on exhibit here in the Reptile/Amphibian building right next door to the venomous cottonmouth with which it is often confused.

Come back for the next installment in this Snake Series!

For more information on Texassnakes, Judith has reccomended these two resources: and  The Field Guide to TX Snakes written by James Dixon and former Houston Zoo director John Werler.

FOTO Friday Winner of the Week

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, October 21!

Last Friday, we asked you to leave your best caption in the comment section. Then readers could “like” each caption comment to vote for their favorites. Their votes, combined with those of our own panel, determined the caption to appear under the picture right here on the Official Houston Zoo Blog this week. We hope you’ll come back for the fun EVERY FRIDAY.

Here is the picture that was posted – taken by Houston Zoo volunteer Juile Bearman –with the top voted caption by Rebecca Dolen Bowers ! ** Insert a Halloween Happy Dance!**


Darling, please tell me where you get your hair done. That is the exact color I was going for.



Sandra Fleming Studios: Take a deep breath. Does it hurt here? What about here? _________________________________________________________________________________


Donna Weaver: “We’ll have to let those trousers out just a little around the waist.





Paul White: cousin it!

Shannon Smith Stilwell: Oooh a well ventilated little Tamarin casa just for me. Now, how do I get in?

Randall Laughlin: I swear I left my keys right here!

Stephanie Feller Lundy: I….I think i love you!

Kathern Sparks: “Orange you glad it’s Halloween? I know I am!” 4

Lori Schumacher: I’ll hide behind you and when they walk up I’ll jump out and yell, “Boo!” 4

Christine Forisha: Hey bud, have you tried the Hair Club for Primates? Works great!



Thanks for joining in the fun!

And please come on back for next Friday!

You can come get your very OWN pumpkin from our pumpkin patch on any one of the TEN, count ’em TEN days of Zoo Boo this year. Visit our website for dates and details. Times vary, so be sure to check. See you ghouls, goblins and geeks there!

My Intern Safari Ride through The Houston Zoo – En Ingles y Español!

*  This is the first in a Spanish/English blog series that will last until mid-December. You can find the Spanish version below the English version (Versión en Español ofrecida debajo de la versión en Ingles). I hope you will enjoy it, and spread the word, post it on your Facebook page, and Tweet it!  Please leave any comments for me after the blog post below. I’d love to hear from you.

Hello everyone! I’m Erika, a new intern at the Zoo’s Interactive Marketing Exhibit…I mean Department, yikes! I am a mammal but unlike Mtembei who’s on the left of me in the picture, I am of the Human species.  From now until the end of the year, I will be writing a series of blogs about my personal experience here and about all the great ways you can participate in the Zoo.

Before I start my blog series about all the cool stuff, I will tell you a few interesting things about myself. After getting to know me, I hope you too will tell me something about yourself and let me know if there’s anything you would like to see in my blogs.

I am a 21- year- old senior studying Marketing at the University of St. Thomas. Next Summer I will graduate and begin my journey through adulthood; although, I wish I could be a kid forever just like Peter Pan.

Anyway, I was raised here in Houston but my family and I are originally from Chihuahua, Mexico and oddly enough, we don’t own a Chihuahua.  I am fluent in both Spanish and English and will therefore be able to write a series of blogs in Spanish! I am definitely excited about that.

I’ve always loved learning new things, both in and out of classrooms. For this reason, I decided to do a study abroad program in France this past summer. I was very excited to be learning about international trade and finance as well as the French culture. After that adventure, I decided it would be great to get hands-on experience as an intern with a Houston organization.  Once I heard about the Houston Zoo’s Internship Program I knew it was the place for me.  Here, I will not only get to learn things about my career but also about wild animals and how we can help them out. After all, we all inhabit the same planet.

Please check back regularly for an update on what I’ve learned about the organization and the animals. I’ll also be letting you know about some of the great events you can attend right here at The Houston Zoo. So, don’t miss out and if you have any questions or comments feel free to write them in the comment section below.  I will gladly respond to you as soon as I can.

Don’t forget to check out our other blogs: Wild Conservation, Trunk Tales, and Education.


Ahora en Español

Este es el primero en una serie de blogs en español e ingles que durara hasta mediados de Diciembre. Normalmente podrás encontrar la versión en español arribe de la versión en ingles. Espero que te guste y que me ayudes a compartir mi experiencia con otros a través de Facebook y Twitter. Favor de dejar tus mensajes o preguntas al final, me encantaría oír de ti.  

¡Hola! Mi nombre es Erika y soy una estudiante haciendo mis practicas de mercadotecnia aquí en el Zoológico de Houston. Tengo 21 años y estoy en mi ultimo año de estudios en la Universidad de San Tomas. Nací en Chihuahua, México y crecí aquí en Houston pero mis padres siempre me han enseñado orgullosamente las tradiciones y el idioma de México.  Es por eso que estoy tan feliz que el Zoológico me ha dado la oportunidad de escribir una serie de blogs para nuestros visitantes que prefieren leer en español.

Desde pequeña siempre me ha gustado aprender cosas nuevas y no nada mas en la escuela si no también por medio de gente que viene de diferentes culturas. Hay tantas cosas que aprender de nuestro mundo y de la gente e animales que habitan en el. El verano pasado me fui a estudiar a Francia por tres semanas y aparte de las clases de finanzas que tomé, también aprendí muchísimo sobre el estilo de vida en Europa y las costumbres de la gente. Ahora en el Zoológico se que aprenderé bastante sobre los animales y el medio ambiente.

Ya que sabes unas cuantas cosas de mi dime lo que piensas o lo que te gustaria saber del Zoológico, los eventos, o los animales. Me encantaría escribir sobre esos temas que te interesan.

Bueno, es todo por ahorita pero no dejes de revisar la pagina de nuestros Blogs para oír de mis aventuras en el Zoológico de Houston.


The Clouded Leopard: Elusive, Enigmatic and Endangered

The Houston Zoo is home to a species of cat that has evaded researchers for years.  The clouded leopard is a well-hidden secret of Southeast Asia.  This beautiful cat is named for the nebulous spots on its coat.  Even the scientific name, Neofelis nebulosa, refers to the shape of the spots! 

Clouded leopards are found in the dense rainforest of Southeast Asia, where they spend most of their time up in the canopy.  As they are shy, nocturnal, and well-camouflaged, these cats have proven a challenge to study.  Camera traps have proven an effective way of documenting the presence of these cats; these motion-activated cameras are set along trails used by prey animals and can sometimes catch images of the cats as well.Even exhibited at the Zoo, this species can be a tricky one to find.  The exhibit includes many good places to hide, and often the only thing that can be seen is a long tail draped over the edge of the rockwork, or maybe a foot or the tip of an ear.  Keep looking when you visit, though.  When the cat is moving around or even just more easily seen, it’s definitely a reward for your efforts!

Climbing for Clouded Leopards, an event hosted by our AAZK chapter to help support the study and protection of these cats, will be held on November 9.  Come enjoy rock climbing with us and help AAZK raise money to help protect and study these beautiful cats!  On November 9,  they’ll be hosting Climbing for Clouded Leopards at the Texas Rock Gym from 5-10pm.  All proceeds will be donated to the Clouded Leopard Project

By Leigh Spencer, Senior Education Specialist

Sea Turtle Rescue Yesterday at the Houston Zoo!

Yesterday afternoon, Dr. Joe Flanagan, the Houston Zoo’s Director of Veterinary Medicine, called over to let us know that we had a wild sea turtle in the zoo hospital with a fishing hook lodged in it’s throat.

The juvenille Green sea turtle had been accidentally hooked by fisherman while they were fishing out in Texas City. The fisherman were very concerned and called the local game warden to come help the turtle. All injured or sick sea turtles are then handed over to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sea turtle biologists.  Much of the time, these sea turtles will come to the Houston Zoo to undergo diagnoses, surgery and/or treatment.

Dr Joe examines hook in sea turtle's throat
After identifying the location of the hook and prepping the sea turtle, surgery begins to carefully remove the hook..
Removal of hook
After a long, delicate process, the hook is finally removed.
Hook that was removed from the sea turtle
  Sea turtle biologist and NOAA employee Lyndsey Howell will now take the sea turtle back to the Sea Turtle Barn in Galveston to let the little guy recuperate. He will then be released back into the wild. 
Lyndsey and Green Sea Turtle
If you are on the Upper Texas Coast and hook a sea turtle fishing or see a sea turtle that is in distress please call 1866TURTLE5!  To learn more about sea turtle conservation at the Houston Zoo visit our sea turtle page.

Copperhead Snakes in Texas – Everything You Need To Know!

This is the next in a series on snakes that’s being written for you by The Houston Zoo’s Herpetology Department Supervisor, Judith Bryja. Our Herp Department knows their stuff, and since we get so much interest in snakes, Judith is writing this informative blog series each week just for you!  If you’d like to read the series from the beginning, click here.

Of the four subspecies of copperhead, the Southern copperhead is the one in our area. Copperheads are pitvipers, as are rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. If you look between the eye and the nostril at the tip of the nose (in the photo below) you will see a hole. This is the heat sensing pit. This is probably the most common venomous snake in Houston. 

One convenient thing about them is that they pretty much always look the same.  Base color is a light beige, peach or almost pinkish shade and they have hourglass shaped markings running down the back. The thin middle part of the hourglass shape is on the spine and the markings get wider as they go down the sides toward the belly. The belly is whitish with maybe some brown splotches along the sides. 

Baby copperheads look the same except for a bright yellow tail tip which disappears with age. Average adult size is 24-30 inches. Breeding occurs in the spring with about 6 babies born live in late summer.

Copperheads like partly shaded woodland with lots of fallen logs and branches and leaf litter that provide shelter for them and also for their prey. They camouflage quite well against dead leaves and pine needles. Very opportunistic in their feeding habits, they eat a variety of prey including frogs, large insects, and even birds, though mice make up the biggest part of their diet. Like most snakes, they prefer to avoid confrontation and when disturbed will usually remain still. They may vibrate the tail really fast which makes almost a rattling noise if done on dead leaves. If further bothered, they usually try to get away but will strike if cornered.

While copperheads are the most abundant venomous snake in our area, they are also the least toxic. As with any suspected venomous snakebite, the best first aid is to stay as calm as possible and get to the hospital.

 Come back next week for the next installment in this amazing Snake Series!

For more information on Texas snakes, Judith has reccomended these two resources: and  The Field Guide to TX Snakes written by James Dixon and former Houston Zoo director John Werler.


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