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Zoo Idaho offers ‘a great grown-up time’ with ‘Roar and Pour’

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POCATELLO — Zoo Idaho in Pocatello is inviting everyone 21 and older for an evening of animal watching and wine tasting this Saturday.

The fourth annual “Roar and Pour,” which will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., is a fundraising event organized by the Zoo Idaho Zoological Society. Those funds support maintenance and improvements at the zoo.

“It’s a wine tasting event at the zoo,” said Jennifer Erchul, the zoological society’s president. “We’re going to have 10 wine tasting stations, a food truck, a wine pull — so people have to opportunity to win some wine. … it’s just a great grown-up time.”

The zoo and zoological society are two separate entities that work hand-in-hand, according to zoo director Peter Pruett. They jointly focus on providing the best possible experience for both human visitors and animal residents.

Among the projects recently completed by the collaborative force is an upgraded grizzly bear habitat — one closer mimicking the animals’ natural living space.

“The goal is to really improve the habitats for our residents here and get them to a space where they’re comfortable,” Erchul said. “Everything right now is fine, it’s not hurting anything, it’s not damaging the animals, it’s all decent-sized — but it can be better.”

Next on the list is the Black Bear habitat, which Pruett said meets all standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but not those set by the zoo itself.

“It’s in OK condition,” Erchul added, “but it’s not an extremely natural habitat.”

Roar and Pour is one of the numerous fundraising ventures established by the zoological society focused on funding things like upgraded bear enclosures, and the soon-to-be-opened entrance and gift shop.

Zoo Idaho, Pocatello entrance and gift shop nearing completion
The new entrance and gift shop at Pocatello’s Zoo Idaho is nearing completion, and is expected to be operational by the middle of winter. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

Originally, the plan was to have the gift shop opened and operational by this summer, but due to construction and product delivery delays that has been pushed off to, possibly, mid-winter.

Something else that could be coming to the Pocatello zoo in the winter, though not this year, is weekend visits.

Pruett has always felt both lucky and selfish that he is able to visit the animals in the winter — an entirely different experience. “It’s a microcosm of what Yellowstone would look like in the middle of winter,” he said.

And while there is no timetable set on allowing visitors over the weekend in the winter, it is something he is intent on sharing with the community.

Many of Pruett’s hopes for the zoo are focused on the community.

“It’s rare to have a zoo in a community of this size,” he said. “It’s important that we maintain it and give our community the best zoo possible because it is unique.”

Aside from being located in a small town with minimal tax revenue, what makes the Pocatello zoo unique is the fact that all its animals are rescued from the wild, and indigenous to the region. Of the more than 6,000 USDA-licensed zoos in the country, Pocatello’s is one of just 12 that can claim to feature strictly indigenous animals.

Because Zoo Idaho is located in such a small community, events like Roar and Pour are integral in continued operation and improvement. But anyone interested in supporting the zoo without attending the event can donate by calling or visiting the zoo office. Donations can also be made on the Zoo Idaho website and Facebook page.

“We accept donations of all sizes,” Erchul said. “Five dollars is as meaningful as $10,000.”

“The society needs operating funds,” Pruett added. “For them to help us, they need to have a strong operation budget. This is a not-for-profit that is really important, not only for the zoo but for the community as well.”

Tickets to “Roar and Pour” are $20 for members of the zoological society — get a membership here — and $25 for non-members, and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

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