Conservation at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary


Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary's Animal Conservation Program is made possible by the Prescott National Forest of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, and Yavapai County Rural Advisory Committee (RAC), under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act of 2000 and contributions from private donors.

Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary has two, closely related purposes: to provide sanctuary for non-releasable wildlife and to help ensure the future of wildlife in general.

Accomplishing these two goals heavily depends on each other. Without having our resident animals available, the effectiveness and quality of our education and conservation programs would be greatly reduced. Without providing homes for animals that are currently in need, we are ignoring an obvious step in ensuring the existence of wildlife populations in the future.

Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary has valuable resources at its hands, including staff skills, land, enclosures, and fundraising abilities. These resources are used in a variety of ways to help conserve and promote wildlife.

HPZS lends assistance to and operates several wildlife conservation programs These include, but are not limited to, Mexican wolf reintroduction program, peregrine falcon nest site monitoring, black-footed ferret field research, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and providing photographic material for conservation groups.       

HPZS rescues approximately 200 animals each year; this number continues to grow.

To learn more about the conservation programs HPZS is currently working on, visit the links above under Conservation. We are only able to conduct these projects as our financial resources allow. If you find this work as critical as we do, please visit our support page to learn how you can help ensure we are able to continue conducting wildlife conservation and our other programs.

Rescuing Young Wildlife
What to do if & when you find a baby animal...

As people head outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather this time of year, many will come across young wildlife. Thinking that these adorable, seemingly helpless little creatures have been abandoned, some well-intentioned people will pluck these animals from forest floors and bring them home. Unfortunately this may actually create a problem where one did not exist. In this podcast, Dr. Peregrine Wolff, a veterinarian with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and secretary of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, talks about what to do when encountering young wildlife.

Conservation Projects

Bald Eagle Nest Watch

What is the animal?

bald-eagleThe bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a large bird of prey, stands approximately 29 to 42 inches tall. It has a wing span of six to eight feet and range from seven to 15 pounds. As with most birds of prey, males are about one-third smaller than females. For the first three to four years of a bald eagle’s life, its feather coloration is a dark brown. As it approaches age five, it becomes mottled with white all over its body. Its iconic white head and tail, with an even dark body, does not show until it passes five. Eagles build large nests that can reach 10 feet in diameter and can weigh several tons. These nests are almost always found within a few miles from a large source of water, as the main prey of bald eagles is fish. Their range is extensive: from Alaska, through Canada, the United States, and into Mexico.

What is its story?

In 1963 there were only 417 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the United States. This species was affected historical hunting, habitat destruction, and other factors. One of the major factors nationally was DDT. This commonly used pesticide made the shells of eagle eggs weak and fracture under the weight of the eagle sitting on the eggs to keep them warm. More than twenty years ago, the state of Arizona estimated that there were only 11 breeding pairs left in the state. The habitat destruction was a main reason for decline in the state. Eagles require large trees to hold their heavy nests. These trees are also the prime sources of wood for human use. After bald eagle was established as an endangered species, the recovery process began. Efforts to eliminate the use of DDT and tighter restrictions on logging allowed eagle populations to stabilize and eventually recover. There are currently 9,789 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states, and approximately 96 bald eagles that call Arizona home.

How does HPZS help?

HPZS stations staff and volunteers at the five Prescott area lakes each spring. Sighting of eagles and reports of nesting activities are reported to the US Forest Service and AZ Game and Fish Department to be included in their state-wide census.

Why is it important?

This monitoring activity is necessary to asses the overall health of the bald eagle population in the state of Arizona and is a requirement of the Endangered Species Act. Census data is used to manage and protect eagle habitat. Proper management is key to keeping these birds healthy and allowing their populations to continue to recover. Bald eagles have a variety of value. Some people consider their beauty the only reason required to want them around. Others point to the value as the national symbol. Ecologists will tell you that a family of eagles living near a lake or river can be the most important factor to control over population of large fish species in the area. Anglers can thank eagles and other fishing birds, as they ensure that only the healthest fish survive to the age and size that is desired by humans.

Black-footed Ferret Reintroduction Research

What is the animal?

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is part of the weasel family. These ferrets stand only six inches high and are 18 to 24 inches long, including their six inch tail. They can weigh one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half pounds and live for three to four years in the wild. They have a black mask over their eyes and have a grey/brown back and white belly. Prairie dogs comprise 90% of their diet and is a key to their survival.

What is its story?

Black-footed ferrets had not been seen in Arizona since the 1930s. In 1979, the last known black-footed ferret died, leading to the species being declared extinct. However, in the early 1980s, a small population of 130 ferrets was found in Wyoming. A few years after this group was found, sylvatic plague and canine distemper almost wiped it out. The 18 survivors were trapped and placed into a carefully designed breeding program to increase their numbers. By 1989, the population had risen to 120. The first releases occurred in 1991 in Wyoming. In 1996, Arizona joins the release program and develops a practice (soon to become standard) of using pre-release conditioning pens. The first Arizona release included thirty five ferrets and was the fourth reintroduction site in the United States. In 1998,

The teeth of the ferret is the tool that makes it a supreme hunter, despite the animal's overall small size .
452 black-footed ferrets are born and 210 are released across the country. After this year, there have been more ferrets in the wild than in captivity, an important milestone in any reintroduction program. Thanks to captive breeding programs at zoos and other facilities, more than 2600 ferrets have been bred for reintroduction. Their main threat today, comes from loss and lack of habitat that leads to diminished prey availability. Prairie dogs rely exclusively on unfragmented stretches of prairies, an increasingly uncommon site in the western US.

How does HPZS help?

HPZS staff and volunteers travel to the Arizona black-footed ferret release site to assist with ongoing research. Personnel locate and trap wild ferrets with a humane technique. After taking vital data, such as weight and length, an identification microchip is attached to the animals and they are released.

Why is it important?

Monitoring the animals is key to their survival. Data collected during this research is used to measure the size of the population growth, health of the animals, and determine future management practices and goals. Black-footed ferrets serve as a population control for prairie dogs and other animals that can severely damage farming and ranching land. They also ensure proper health of prey species by removing the weakest, often suffering from disease or other impairment.

Peregrine Falcon Nest Site Monitoring

What is the animal?

falconThe peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is one of six falcon species found in North America. Peregrines are medium sized raptors (birds of prey) about 16 to 20 inches long. They have a heavy, broad body. Their narrow wings have dark slate gray wing tips; also a color found on the head and back with a tan or white chest and throat. Typical of all falcons, the peregrine has malar streaks (black sideburns) that extend down below the eyes and are bordered by lighter feathers. Peregrines are the fastest animals in the world; at a stoop, they can go fly over 250 mph. This creates a unique hunting style found in peregrines: they stoop on their prey and kill them on impact, alone.

What is its story?

Peregrine falcons have a wide range and are found on every continent except Antarctica. In the 1940s, the population was decreasing at an alarming rate due to widespread DDT (a pesticide) use. This chemical caused thinning of egg shells, preventing many chicks from hatching. The peregrine was added to the endangered species list in 1970 allowing for strict regulations to be implemented on the use of DDT. Recovery teams were developed to start captive breeding programs, reintroductions, and relocations. Following many years of hard work by governmental agencies, non-profits organizations, and private citizens, the peregrine was delisted in 1999. As with all delistings, the federal government was required to monitor the species for a minimum of five years to ensure that they would sustain viable populations in the wild. Presently, the peregrine falcon has stable populations in most of their historical ranges and some have even adapted well to city life, including the breeding and raising of young on the top of skyscrapers in large cities.

How does HPZS help?

HPZS monitors two known peregrine falcon nest sites in the Prescott area: Thumb Butte and Granite Mountain. These areas are closed to climbers and hikers from February 1 to July 15, annually, to allow the falcons to breed, nest, and raise young without being disturbed by human activity. HPZS staff and volunteers collect data on peregrine falcon usage of these areas, courtships, nestings, and successful offspring production. This data is forwarded to the US Forest Service and used for management of the local breeding sites.

Why is it important?

Excessive levels of human disturbance has been identified as a major cause of low population growth. Since the population of peregrines is still low and could slip back into trouble, all efforts possible to support the rise of their populations are critical to undertake. The closures of these sites to human activity are necessary when peregrines are found to be breeding in Prescott, and the data collected by HPZS are necessary to determine if, when, and where nestings occur. Often called "duck hawks" these falcons often dine on waterfowl. Peregrines serve the environment by keeping bird populations in check and healthy by removing the weakest and the sick.

Wildlife Rehabilitation

One of the sanctuary's major missions is and always has been rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife. Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary supports rehabilitation in two important ways: rescue of distressed wildlife and providing sanctuary for animals that cannot be rehabilitated to a releasable stage.



evaluating an injured coopers hawk

javelina rescue june 2010 002


We also have the opportunity to assist wildlife rehabilitation efforts by monitoring animals that rehabilitators have deemed non-relaseable, but which may have a chance of recovery over the long-term. We have been fortunate to be able to release many animals over the years.

Most recently, we released a great-horned owl. She sustained an injury that resulted in blindness, a condition that usually does not reverse. However, over the year that she was housed at the sanctuary, her eyesight returned and she is now living free in the wild.

We have also released countless other animals that required short-term care after being rescued.

As the sanctuary grows, we plan to devote more resources to wildlife rehabilitation and add a fully equipped rehabilitation facility to the grounds.

To support our rehabilitation efforts, please visit our support page to learn about what you can do.