Spotlight Columns

‘And it Grew into a Zoo!’

By From page B2 | February 08, 2012

Fiercely educational — This example of the anatomy of a wolf's head is part of the exhibit on the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, currently on exhibit at the Folsom History Museum through March 18. Photo by Susan Laird

Folsom History Museum profiles city’s zoo sanctuary

The Folsom area is unique in that it has many of the amenities one would expect of a larger metropolitan city. This includes the fact that Folsom even has its own zoo.

A zoo? Yes, a zoo sanctuary actually. And the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary is the focus of a special exhibit that runs through March 18 at the Folsom History Museum.
The exhibit, while modest, traces the origins of the zoo and how it came to be established by Gordon Brong, who was the superintendant of parks in Folsom from 1959 and into the 1960s.

Brong and his wife lived in a trailer on the 48-acre City Park site. They were there to guard the park. The zoo began when a park ranger brought over an injured deer for the Brongs to nurse back to health.

More injured animals were to follow, including mountain lions and one famous resident, Smokey the Bear.

Smokey was an orphaned black bear cub who sustained serious injuries in a forest fire. He could not be released back into the wild, so Brong set up a bear exhibit.
Animals were treated as individuals, so it was not unusual in the 1960s to see Smokey (or even a mountain lion cub) in Brong’s vehicle as he drove about town.

Smokey was the beginning of Folsom’s famous bear exhibit.

Today, the zoo, in conjunction with the National Park Service, allows the bears to test prototype “bear-proof” food containers for backcountry use, as well as “bear-proof” food lockers and trash cans that can be used in state parks. This work helps the zoo and helps the park service to keep wild bears in the wild.

Over the years more and more animals were added to the zoo, and more and more people visited, volunteered and supported the little sanctuary.

Today the zoo continues to “Teach Responsible Behavior Towards All Animals.” Each animal is treated as an individual. As the exhibit states, the Zoo Sanctuary is “a unique and safe place for special animals. Many were raised and rejected as pets. Others were injured or orphaned in the wild. None are able to return to their wild habitat. All have names and personalities — and a home for life.”

This exhibit is an homage to those dear humans who gave so much to provide a place where adults and children can learn about these amazing creatures. Today’s zoo sanctuary features bears, wolves (and wolf hybrids), mountain lions, foxes, badgers, bobcats, grey squirrels, deer, sheep, herding dogs, birds of prey, and even tigers.

Among the objects on display are furs and skeletons for educational purposes. The Folsom Zoo Sanctuary is never picketed by animal rights activists. In fact, it is the darling of many of these organizations because the zoo has extremely high standards for animal care and mental enrichment.

This exhibit is well worth dropping by on any early afternoon. Then, take a short drive over to the Zoo Sanctuary in Folsom City Lions Park (off Natoma Street on Stafford). You’ll be glad you did.

The Folsom History Museum is located at 823 Sutter St. in the city’s Historic District. Hours are: Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Monday. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for youths and free for FHM Society members and kids under age 12.

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected].

Susan Laird


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