The Navajo Nation Zoo in Window Rock, Arizona was one of the places my family and I visited while staying in Gallup, New Mexico. The zoo houses up to 100 animals and features 50 different animal species from all around Arizona and New Mexico.
What makes this zoo special is that it is the only zoo owned and operated by an American Indian Tribe. Most of the animals in the zoo are very important to the Navajo Nation. The animals in the zoo are ones that appear in their stories or are considered sacred to the tribe.
The zoo is over 40 years old and was originally started with one orphaned bear. David Mikesic is the zoologist for the zoo and knows the story for every animal.
All the animals in the zoo are there because they need a home and wouldn’t survive in the wild. They are rescues or are adopted by the zoo because of things such as injuries and having lost their families. At the Navajo Nation Zoo, there is no trading of animals to other zoos for breeding.
Animals in the zoo include black bears, golden eagles, bighorn sheep, raccoons, wolves, cougars, foxes, elks, owls and more. Walking through this park, I was amazed to learn how cool some of the animals were along with their back stories. Some of the animals in the zoo are also endangered.
One of the things I really liked about the zoo, were the signs at each animal habitat shared why the animal was important to the Navajo people. The signs also share the name of the animals in English and Navajo.
The golden eagle sanctuary was built in 2016 and is the newest structure at the zoo. There were several eagles in the sanctuary. All the Eagles had serious injuries that would not allow for them to survive in the wild.
I learned that the Golden Eagle is a very sacred and important bird in the Navajo culture. They should be respected and greatly honored. It is said that a Navajo person can keep an eagle feather only after it is properly blessed by a medicine man.
One of the favorite animals that we saw was an albino Raccoon. Something about the raccoon was just cool to me because of its unique colors.
The habitats for all of the animals were all quite impressive. Each habitat gives the animal room to roam around with plenty of space to be happy. Each habitat also caters to each animal’s specific needs. I thought this was very cool for the animals to be as happy as the zoo can make them. Happier animals lead to happier visitors too.
The Navajo Zoo has two black bears; Bessie and Abbey. As a cub, Bessie was orphaned and caught in a trap and then brought to the zoo. Abbey was also orphaned and brought here.
When we visited, the two bears had built holes in their habitat where they sleep and use for hibernation.
As well as the animals in outdoor habitats, there was an indoor area with fish, reptiles, and insects.
There was also a black-footed ferret, which is an endangered species. The Navajo Nation Zoo is only one of 23 facilities in the United States with these ferrets.
While I visited, I saw the some of the fish and reptiles being fed. It was really interesting and I suggest calling before you go find out the feeding times.
Navajo Nation Zoo Information
The zoon is a 30-minute drive from Gallup, New Mexico
Address: 34 AZ-264, Window Rock, AZ 86515