ZooMontana limits its exhibits to animals found at Montana's latitude. There are no tropical or arctic animals. The environment is not suited for elephants, hippos, giraffes, polar bears, penguins, etc., as all its large animal exhibits are outdoors and not climate controlled. It's not big. It's not flashy. And it is not on par with San Deigo or Cincinnati. If that's what you're looking for, you will be disappointed.
If you're looking for walking paths through a wild landscape — native grasses, towering cottonwoods, the occasional cottontail rabbit — dotted with enclosures designed to look natural in the environment inhabited by animals that can thrive in Montana, then ZooMontana is a good pick.
The zoo has Rocky Mountain animals, including a bald eagle, big horn sheep, Grizzly bears, grey wolves, Great Horned owl, river otters, porcupine, and beavers. There are also animals from cold climates in Asia — a Siberian tiger, red pandas, and sika deer.
Our kids loved feeding livestock at the farm exhibit. There we saw a Clydesdale horse, pygmy goats, ducks, chicken, rabbits, and peafowl. The indoor exhibits — reptiles, amphibians, insects, and rodents — had step-stools so the kids could get right up against the glass. Creepy-crawlies are not my cup of tea, but our children enjoyed them.
The grizzlies, otters, beavers, and tiger were active and readily interacted in the viewing areas. We had a tougher time seeing the wolves as it was the hottest part of the day and they had the good sense to get out of the heat. There's also a botanical garden (again, native and cold-hardy species) and a playground/picnic area.
Parts of the zoo are clearly under construction or being remodeled. The waterfowl exhibit was drained and closed, and parts of the gift shop were being repainted. According to the local newspaper, the zoo had been in financial hardship (it's not publicly funded) but had recently appointed new leadership.
We decided to get the family pass. It was more affordable than paying multiple daily admission and allowed us to take the kids to the exhibits or the playground for as long or short of time as we needed. It's also not crazy crowded. You can get snacks and beverages, but there is no food court. Packing a sack lunch is okay.
All in all, I think it's quite nice for what it is and the price is good. Again, if you want tour guides and cement, that's not ZooMontana. It's more like a nature hike with animals.
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