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OC Zoo: Mountain Lions, Eagles, and Bears, Oh My

Published: 10/01/2010

Simon & Garfunkel famously sang: "Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo. I do believe it; I do believe it's true." If you don't remember the song-or Simon & Garfunkel-you're probably younger than Klink, the 40-year-old bald eagle at the OC Zoo. But your vision is probably worse.

Precisely what happens at the OC Zoo is very different than what happens at a major zoo like San Diego's. The OC Zoo is all about providing a cozy setting for kids and their parents to encounter animals, reptiles and birds up close. At five acres it's a small zoo, but big enough for kids to spend an hour they'll remember for months, with the chance to pet a goat, admire a coyote and shrink from a mountain lion. Parents will appreciate the accordingly small admission of two bucks.

This zoo specializes in animals native to the U.S. Southwest, especially Southern California, rather than exotic species. Most of the animals were relocated there after being injured, confiscated or orphaned. Before walking through the main part of the zoo, however, most kids head straight to the "children's zoo" area, where petting the sheep and the tiny Nigerian Dwarf and African Pygmy goats is encouraged. Don't worry, there's a soap-and-water dispenser just outside the compound.

The animals in the rest of the zoo include coyotes, bobcats, a javelina, a porcupine and two endangered species-an ocelot and a teeny island fox. But the zoo's big stars are the two black bears, 550-pound Nacho and 350-pound Yoyo, and the 110-pound mountain lion, Amanda. There are also snakes, reptiles, lizards, eagles, hawks, owls and even an extensive native-plant collection along the paths.

The zoo is a perfect excuse to make it out to Irvine Regional Park, not far from the bustling heart of Orange County, where you and your kids can make an afternoon of it by also visiting the adjacent nature center; riding the mini-train; renting a paddleboat or bikes; riding a horse or pony; going for a hike; or just enjoying a picnic in the shade of a sycamore.

HelloIrvine Tip: A brochure at the entrance explains how to take a free, kid-friendly, cellphone audio tour so you can learn about the animals as you walk through the zoo.

- by Bob Cooper, Irvine Reporter for HelloMetro


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