The Ecomuseum Zoo: a sanctuary for indigenous wildlife

Richard Burnett

The Ecomuseum Zoo is the only outdoor zoo on the island of Montréal and offers visitors a unique and natural experience to observe 115 animal species found in Québec’s St. Lawrence Valley. The popular 11-hectare zoo located in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is a 25-minute drive from downtown Montréal.

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A Unique and Responsible Zoo

The Ecomuseum Zoo was established in 1988 to showcase the education, research and conservation activities of the non-profit St. Lawrence Valley Natural History Society, which was founded by McGill University professor Dr. John Roger Bider in 1981. Today, 115 animal species from the St. Lawrence Valley have found a home at the 11-hectare zoo, including black bears, woodland caribou, river otters, turtles, Canada lynx and eagles.

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115 Animal Species

The animals that reside at the Ecomuseum Zoo are all animals that could not survive in their natural environment, and come from accredited rehabilitation centres and zoological institutions.

“These animals were either injured, orphaned or born under professional human care, and have found a permanent, safe and loving home at our zoo,” explains Ecomuseum Zoo director of communications Emilie Sénécal. “These animals have not acquired the knowledge or learned the behaviours necessary for survival in the wild, so we offer them protection against predators.”

Depending on the season, the Ecomuseum Zoo has up to 50 employees, including 10 zookeepers.

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River Otters

Among the many highlights are the river otters, who live in a vast pond filled with 250,000 litres of running water, which mimics the rivers and banks loved by the seasoned predator. Their large enclosure pen also features an underground observation tunnel for children. “The otters are major stars with the kids because they are charismatic and a lot of fun,” Sénécal says.

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Black Bears

The zoo’s female black bears are also very popular. Says Sénécal, “They’re like sisters. Sometimes they get on each other’s nerves, but they also love to play together.”

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Arctic Fox, Lynx and Gray Wolf

The zoo is home to several iconic predators of the St. Lawrence Valley in Québec: the Arctic fox, the Canada lynx and the gray wolf, who each have their own large and natural enclosures. In summertime, when the weather is hot, the animals are more active between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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Birds of Prey

The zoo is home to a vast selection of birds, notably such birds of prey as a snowy owl, a barred owl and two red-tailed hawks – a solitary couple who are always together. There are also eagles, notably a golden eagle who tragically thinks she is human because the first thing she saw when she was born in captivity was a human being. Each habitat is the best possible reproduction of their natural environments to help ensure the animal’s comfort and well-being.

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The Visitor Experience

A visit to the Ecomuseum Zoo takes roughly two hours, including a 30-minute visit to the indoor pavilion showcasing fish, amphibians and reptiles. The zoo also offers a popular summer camp where children can interact with the animals, and learn about conservation, the environment and animal well-being.

The zoo also has educational play points for kids, as well as a playground.

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Opening Hours and Parking

The Ecomuseum Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the last admission is at 4 p.m.) 364 days per year. It is closed on Christmas Day.

The Ecomuseum Zoo’s summer programming is especially popular. Every day at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., and at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., visitors can attend special presentations that answer such questions as: What does the Arctic fox eat? Does the raccoon hibernate? Why are Québec’s turtles endangered?

There is also free on-site parking for all guests.

For more information, visit zooecomuseum.ca.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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