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Merced Zoo
Home to native Valley wildlife, exotic speciesBy DENNIS D. CRUZ

Since the early 1960s, Merced’s Applegate Park Zoo has been a local favorite for the region’s animal enthusiasts. Over the years, the zoo has been home to several different species. Today the zoo keeps over 70 animals including monkeys, bears, bobcats, a mountain lion and even raccoons.

Zookeeper Donna McDowell has been with the zoo for nearly two decades and has taken care of all of the animals on site. Applegate Park Zoo acquires their animals in many different ways.

“We have had animals brought in here from the Fish and Game and Wildlife, as well as people bringing them in just because they can no longer tend to them,” McDowell said.

One of the animals that came to the zoo was Windfall, a black bear.

“Windfall was a cub when she came in. She was being raised by a family who found her in the foothills as a very young cub. She was less than two years old when the family’s neighbor called Fish and Wildlife and told them they owned a bear and felt it was in danger. She has been here ever since,” McDowell shared.

Windfall shares a large habitat exhibit with a brown bear named Missy.

One of the most popular animals at the park is Boomer the Bobcat. Boomer is the official mascot of UC Merced. The feisty bobcat has been with the zoo for a few years and attracts a large crowd on a daily basis. Boomer and fellow bobcat Nala share captivity where they can climb, play and sleep comfortably in their beds.

Kokomo and Buddy are the zoo’s monkeys. The two are siblings and their family has been a part of the zoo since the opening of Applegate Park Zoo. Buddy, a female monkey, is approaching 40 years old but is still very active and alert to her surroundings. She and Kokomo entertain visitors as they have since arriving at the zoo.

Applegate Park Zoo has several different feathered friends throughout the park as well. From emus to colorful peacocks, to falcons and hawks, the zoo has dozens of birds both large and small. Applegate Park Zoo is the home of a rare yellow-billed Magpie. This particular magpie is a Valley native and is on the endangered species list.

There is no shortage of fun for the younger set as Applegate Park Zoo offers activities for kids year-round.

Every day visitors can go to the petting zoo where there are llamas, goats and other kid-friendly animals available to pet.

Zookeeper Josh Moreno has been with the zoo for over five years and is the activities director for Applegate Park Zoo.

“We offer many things for the kids to do. This summer we are working on a camp where the kids can come in and get up close with some of the animals,” Moreno said. “Other popular events that we do throughout the year are our Zoo Boo at Halloween time, we have a Christmas event, and we also offer behind the zoo scenes where kids can take a tour and feed the animals.”

Applegate Park Zoo is currently looking for volunteers 16 years and older to help at the zoo. For more information on the zoo and how you can become a volunteer, call (209) 725-3337.If You Go

Applegate Park Zoo
1045 W. 25th St., Merced
Open year-round, seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Only days closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day
Admission: Ages 16 to 61, $3; Ages 5 to 15, $2; Ages 62 plus, $1.50; Under 5, free
For more information: Visit