LIVE: Pride of the Prairie Zoo Exhibit Opens

FARGO — The newest jewel in the crown of the Red River Zoo is open after years of planning and effort.

The new “Pride of the Prairie” exhibit is officially open to the public.

It highlights some of the most important species of the American plains, including prairie dogs, tiger salamanders, and the black-footed ferret, thought until recently to be extinct.

The building allows visitors to get an up-close-and-personal view through a giant glass window of the prairie dog community, serving for now as a sort of frat house for the zoo’s male prairie dog population.

The babies haven’t come up from underground yet, explained zoo executive director Sally Jacobson, so they and the females will remain in the original habitat for now.

The black-footed ferret is awaiting a companion ferret from Colorado, where the pair will live out their days in a sort of retirement-community arrangement.

The zoo also has a domesticated ferret who’s served in the past as a surrogate mother to gestate some of the highly endangered black-footed ferrets, North America’s only native ferret.

What may be the zoo’s highest-profile residents today, however, are the three juvenile bison, courtesy of the Wind Cave National Park herd in South Dakota.

They’re some of the most genetically pure bison in the United States, unlike many other bison that have been bred to carry cattle DNA.

The three year old male and two females have been spending time getting acclimated and trained to do behaviors that allow them to interact safely with their keepers in order to get medical care.

The male, Barry, is named after a zoo board member who was instrumental in getting the exhibit built, but who died before he could see it open.

Jacobson showed the Morning Show’s Emily Welker around the new exhibit and explained why it’s so critical to raise awareness of the splendor of the prairie and its native species, how the exhibit helps push forward the zoo’s conservation mission, and what special species could be coming next.

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