Yellowstone Family Adventure with the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo just returned from leading our annual Yellowstone Family Adventure program, in partnership with Teton Science Schools. This program, started in 2015, is an opportunity for families to experience wildlife together and learn ways they can help protect wildlife in their daily lives.

During the 5-day program, we experienced lots of incredible things! This year we began the program by collecting data on a bird found in the Grand Tetons, the Clark’s Nutcracker. This birds’ population is decreasing because it is losing its’ main source of food-a nut from the whitebark pine tree. The whitebark pine tree is decreasing in this area because of many threats including the mountain pine beetle and white pine blister rust. So, both the bird and the pine tree need one another and it is important to scientists to collect data on both to help improve their populations.

Coming from the aerial tram on Rendezvous Peak and ready to collect data on birds!
We rode the aerial tram to arrive on Rendezvous Peak and collect data on birds!
A sample of our data collection on Clark's nutcrackers in the Grand Tetons.
A sample of our data collection on Clark’s nutcrackers in the Grand Tetons.

In addition to data collection to help with wildlife-saving efforts, we visited the Teton Raptor Center to learn about birds of prey in the area. That evening we took a float trip down the Snake River where we learned about otters, beavers, bald eagles, osprey, moose and more!

After a full day spent in the Grand Tetons, we drove to Yellowstone National Park where we spent 3 full days. There, we monitored water quality to see how the health of aquatic areas influences the health of wildlife.

Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.
Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.
Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.
Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.

We went on several hikes in the Park-viewing wildlife all along the way!

Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park
Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park
Here we watched a black bear near a stream, followed by a grizzly bear who appeared shortly after!
Here we watched a black bear near a stream, followed by a grizzly bear who appeared shortly after!
Kids on the program brought interactive workbooks to fill out as they spotted wildlife.
Kids on the program brought interactive workbooks to fill out as they spotted wildlife.
Yellowstone Family Adventure participants enjoying time in nature!
Yellowstone Family Adventure participants enjoying time in nature!

During our program we saw a variety of species. The program was uniquely special this year as the National Parks Service celebrated its’ 100 year anniversary, and Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the U.S.!

One of the highlights of our program included a morning watching a wolf pack. The pack included 8 pups, which is quite amazing! Through a scope we watched the pups play with their older siblings and parents. Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995 after being gone for more than 60 years. While watching the wolves, we had the opportunity to discuss the history of Yellowstone’s wolves with Rick McIntyre, a wildlife biologist who has worked with wolves for more than 20 years in the Park.

Observing wolves in the wild and discussing wolf history in Yellowstone with biologist, Rick McIntyre.
Observing wolves in the wild and discussing wolf history in Yellowstone with biologist, Rick McIntyre.
Observing Yellowstone's wolves through a scope.
Observing Yellowstone’s wolves through a scope.

In addition to plenty of wildlife viewing, we also learned about the unique geological history of Yellowstone, including the hydrothermal features (geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, travertine terraces and mudpots!). More than 10,000 hydrothermal features are found in Yellowstone alone-an astounding number!

Visiting Old Faithful-one of the most iconic geysers in the world!
Visiting Old Faithful-one of the most iconic geysers in the world!

We had a wonderful time in nature, learning about and experiencing wildlife in one of our most famous national parks. In addition to participating in citizen science, we also discussed some of the actions we could take to help the wildlife we were so fortunate to see. Two of the main actions include:

  • Switch from plastic bags to reusable bags at the grocery store to decrease the plastic that ends up in our rivers/streams/oceans. Animals like otters can become entangled in plastics or ingest them thinking they are food. Help save otters by using less plastic bags!
  • Purchase toilet paper and paper towels from companies that use 100% recycled content. Animals like black bears and grizzly bears depend on trees, and trees provide us with paper! By purchasing paper products made with recycled content, we can help protect the homes of bears.

Of course, you don’t have to visit Yellowstone to save wildlife. Making small changes in your daily life to help protect wildlife is possible at anytime, anywhere! If you are interested in Taking Action to save wildlife, find out more here. If you’d like to travel with the Houston Zoo, please visit our travel page here.

Houston Zoo Family Adventure in Yellowstone!
Houston Zoo Family Adventure in Yellowstone!
*All photos courtesy of Teton Science Schools.


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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

So sorry for the loss of this beautiful creature. Kan Balam.

Is this the one that had the limp?

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

So sorry for your loss. He was a brilliant cat and he is at peace now and free.

So sorry they had to go through this, a decision that is emotional and difficult, and necessary.

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

Sending my love to Kan Balam's keepers ❤️ This is the hardest part of our jobs 💔

We just saw Kan Balam on Monday😔.... he will be missed❤️

I am so sorry for your loss, each of these animals are precious ....

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

Hugs to all of you keepers that took special care of Kan Balam.

Awe, I’m so sad to hear his quality of life was declining. But, I’m happy to know he had a long and wonderful life thanks to the wonderful teams at the Houston Zoo. He was a beautiful cat.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Heartfelt condolences to the veterinary and keeper staff. Thank you for taking care of him

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

Thank you for providing him with a caring and enriched life. So sorry for your loss!

My thoughts of sympathy are with you all. I can't even imagine the sadness you feel today.

So sorry to read this. It is always a hard decision. RIP and run free sweet boy.

I’m so sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful cat.

So sad. Native Houstonian. He was one of my favorites.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less

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Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?

 

Comment on Facebook

Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

Andrew Kaufmann Look its Richard Jr! 😂

Wow ... good photo shot ... show the world that you need to protect your pipe ... if not, freezing water will expand the pipe and crack the pipe !!!

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

My gutters had glaciers in them!

I fell for the mouse thing too..

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Johnnie R. Summerlin, cool, see the "stalagm ice"?

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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