As a small park, Pine Grove Zoo is an ideal spot for family picnics, especially for those with small children. It only takes an hour to tour the zoo so little ones don’t get too worn out. The petting zoo offers shade and a chance to feed the animals, and the Bear Exhibit is close by where benches offer a place to sit and watch the antics of the bear cubs, Jerry and Garrison, or the older bears, Yogi and Teddy.
When you’re ready to do a little walking you’ll discover the exhibits for the deer, pronghorn, emu, yak, tortoise, bobcats, cougars, timber wolves, tigers, and prairie dogs, among others. There are special events throughout the year, animal feeding and enrichment on specific days, even “Creepy Crawly Critter Encounters” on the first and third Sundays of the month. If you didn’t bring a picnic lunch you can always get burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, tacos, fries, or cheese curds at the Cougar Cafe.
Pine Grove Park was established in 1907 on a 55-acre tract of land that was purchased by contributions from the City of Little Falls, Milton Williams, A. Davidson, Charles Weyerhaeuser, R. “Drew” Musser, and public donations. The land was then deeded to the City of Little Falls for the benefit of the community. In 1913 it was decided to add a zoo to the grounds beginning with two Great Horned Owls, which were soon followed by deer, moose, peafowl, goats, and other creatures. The first black bear was added in 1954.
By 1990 a fledgling Zoological Society decided to upgrade the zoo to make it a more pleasant home for the animals and a richer experience for the community. The Zoo has applied for accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. When that is achieved, Pine Grove Zoo will be the third accredited zoo in Minnesota (after the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley and Como Zoo in St. Paul.) If you haven’t visited the zoo in a while, take the time to stop by. You’ll be delighted at how it’s grown.