Colorado Springs, CO – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is in full assessment and recovery mode today after an unprecedented storm caused human and animal injuries, including two animal deaths, and major vehicle and infrastructure damage throughout the property. The staff is operating under their typical incident command system for emergencies to address the most urgent needs for both animals and operations, all while dealing with heartbreak from two animal deaths and personal property damage.
Although severe weather was expected in the area on Monday afternoon, the baseball-sized hail came with none of the usual weather warnings. It began out of the blue, causing Zoo guests, staff and animals to scramble to find shelter. Many Zoo guests were injured – some were transported to the hospital, and some were treated and released on scene. Three Zoo employees were injured seriously enough to be transported to the hospital, and more staff injuries are still being reported today.
All of the Zoo’s animals have permanent shelter, but just as there were humans injured while trying to get to shelter, some animals were injured, as well. At this time, the Zoo is heartbroken to confirm the loss of 13-year-old Cape vulture, Motswari, and 4-year-old Muscovy duck, Daisy. Other potential animal injuries are still being assessed by animal care staff and our veterinary team.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for 35 years, and abides by their rigorous requirements for animal care and safety. The Zoo is also regulated, as all zoos are, by the United States Department of Agriculture, which routinely performs inspections. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo meets, or in many cases exceeds, all requirements.
When the hail hit, the Zoo’s incident command system immediately acted upon their training and made sure guests were safe in the buildings where they sought shelter. Skylights throughout the Zoo were actively damaged during the storm, and therefore, even in “safe areas,” staff was actively engaged in ensuring guest safety. In addition, animal staff attempted to assist any animals who needed help to seek shelter, but ultimately, human life-safety had to be our first priority. A number of staff were injured trying to help animals; the number and extent of those injuries are still being determined.
Even animals that use their on-exhibit dens and shelters on a daily basis were prone to confusion by the fast onset of the storm, and also suffered confusion by the onslaught of hail. Just as there were injuries to guests who were caught unaware, there were also injuries to some animals.
Zoo staff would like to thank all of the members of the community for their outpouring of support, both offers of manual labor volunteers and financial contributions. For now, staff is managing all work that needs to be completed, but if we are able to accept volunteers in the future, we will make an announcement through our social media networks.
The Zoo’s summer camps have been canceled for the remainder of the week, and full refunds will be issued.
The Zoo is closed to the public today, and staff is assessing whether the closure will need to continue into the coming days. More information will be shared on animal injuries and a potential reopening date as it becomes available.
About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s ONLY mountain zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s hope that guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Of the 230 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just nine operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues and donations for funding.