Sara W Ifft Grizzly Exhibit
The Pocatello zoo began in 1932 with a donation of a female rhesus monkey named Josephine and a raccoon caught by John Marshall. The two were housed in wire pens at a local trailer park and kept in John’s garage in the winter. Soon after, the mayor of Pocatello, C. Ben Ross, became the Governor of Idaho and appropriated funds for the purchase of land for a park in Pocatello. William Raymond, grandfather of John Marshall, was the superintendent of the Park Department. Raymond and the City Council selected an area south of Pocatello covered with sagebrush and bordered with a natural lava rock cliff. This made an ideal setting for the zoo and a city park. The park was named Ross Park after the governor C. Ben Ross.
For eleven years William Raymond and grandson, John Marshall, continued to build numerous pens for the park until Raymond’s death. A city park on the west side was named in his honor and is known today as Raymond Park.
During those eleven years the first pen built was a monkey house, followed by four pens for bobcat, badger, coyote and raccoon. The lava rock formations made a natural location for a bear pit. The first occupant was called Jigs, an orphan from the Yellowstone Park area. John cared for the cub bear, a pair of deer, three bobcats and four coyote cubs until they could be transferred to the zoo. John and his grandfather added a silver-tipped badger they caught up Pocatello Creek and a coyote den they dug up near the American Falls Reservoir.
The Pocatello Zoo became notorious in 1978 with the addition of a three year old grizzly bear named Charlie. He came from Alaska and was believed to have been an orphaned cub. His gentle nature and amiable ways captured the admiration of both local residents and out of town visitors for over 30 years.
In 1991 Charlie gained a companion, Stripes. Stripes, a two year old female grizzly, came from a zoo in Columbus, Ohio where she was born in captivity. They were companions for 18 years until the passing of Charlie in 2009. Arthritis and a declining appetite led to the passing of Charlie in September, 2009 at the age of 34. His ashes are interred in the zoo’s world-class Sara W. Ifft Grizzly Bear Exhibit located on the bluff above Charlies den.
With the passing of Charlie, Stripes was lonely and began pacing her enclosure. Her loneliness was alleviated in 2014 with the arrival of Shoni. As a young grizzly in the Shoshone National Forest, Shoni harassed hunters and tourists and was trapped near the Pahaska Tepee Resort outside of Cody, Wyoming.
A world-class grizzly bear exhibit, The Sara W. Ifft Grizzly Bear Exhibit, was opened to the public on July 3, 2012 and became the new home for Stripes and Shoni. The natural half-acre exhibit has ideal amenities for a grizzly bear. With the backdrop of Scout Mountain the exhibit has beautiful trees, open space, a recirculating stream with a pond for cooling off and live trout and bass, enhanced with a covered beach. Visitors enjoy the viewing gallery which provides observation of the grizzly bears roaming and splashing in the water. The glass enclosure safely puts the visitor within inches of the bears.
With the housing of numerous orphaned or injured animals from the region who would have died in the wild, the Pocatello Zoo, also known as the Ross Park Zoo, was re-named as Zoo Idaho in 2016.
In, Of and About Pocatello, Idaho
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