Lake Superior Zoo, located in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, opened its doors in 1923. Initially known as the Duluth Zoo, it is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The zoo was founded by Bert Onsgard, a West Duluth businessman, who started with a pen for his white-tailed deer named “Billy.” The community’s involvement was pivotal in its early development, with contributions ranging from donated fencing to exotic pets and fundraising efforts by school children for lion cubs. The zoo’s early years included the construction of an elephant house and expansion to include more native and exotic animals.
Some of the zoo’s notable past residents include Bessie, an elephant known for her escapades outside the zoo’s perimeter before fencing was installed, and Valerie, a Himalayan black bear who was a mascot for a World War II bomber unit. There was also Mr. Magoo, a mongoose with an interesting backstory of being smuggled into Duluth, and Bubba, a beloved polar bear known for his personality and playfulness.
Today, Lake Superior Zoo offers a chance to see and learn about over 300 animals in various indoor and outdoor habitats. Highlights include meeting rescued brown bears, interacting with a parrot, and the opportunity to hang out with a two-toed sloth. The zoo focuses on providing close-up experiences with animals, fostering connections with wildlife, and promoting conservation efforts both locally and globally.