Ann M. Olson, DVM
On May 30, 2011, the Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, North Dakota began to evacuate the majority of its collection. The Souris River that divides the zoo grounds in half was flooding due to increased runoff and rainfall. An evacuation plan was in place but was revised that day due to a higher than expected crest. A small staff of six full-time employees, the director, and the contract veterinarian worked with volunteers to evacuate nearly 120 animals in 38 hours. With the exception of three animals, all were evacuated without tranquilization. Some animals were sent to a safe location near Minot while others went to local farms, ranches, or zoological institutions in North Dakota. Animals requiring more permanent housing went to zoological institutions in Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota. On May 31, the river stopped rising and the zoo was not flooded. On June 19, the river rose again due to record rainfall upstream. The zoo, as well as one-third of Minot’s population, evacuated again with the knowledge that flooding was inevitable. The remaining animals were evacuated to safe locations and supplies and offices were relocated to park district property. By June 23, the zoo grounds were flooded with nine to 12 feet of water.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials began working with the park district to plan the recovery effort. The waters receded in mid-July and work began in August to clean and disinfect. Large amounts of garbage and mold growth were removed. Buildings sustained heavy damage and the perimeter fence was gone. The majority of animals remaining in the Minot area were relocated to other institutions across the country. Currently, repairs to the entrance building are nearly complete, those to the clinic are in progress, but the majority of barns and exhibits are not repaired. No animals have returned due to the absence of the perimeter fence. Lessons learned during the flood event have included preparing and training staff for a disaster, moving animals safely during an emergency, caring for stressed animals after the event, documenting important information during and after the evacuation, and recovering the zoo grounds after the waters receded.
The author thanks the staff and volunteers who assisted in the evacuation and the zoological institutions who have accepted and cared for the animals of Roosevelt Park Zoo since the flood.