White-tailed Deer Fawns

White-tailed Deer Fawns

BPZOO’s Herd Grows by Three

The Buttonwood Park Zoo has a long history of providing a home to non-releasable, rehabilitated wildlife and welcomed three female white-tailed deer fawns to its existing herd this summer.

The three young females, or does, came to BPZOO thanks to a strong partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife. This is the second time in two years that orphaned fawns have been placed at BPZOO.

BPZOO Director Gary Lunsford is extremely proud of this relationship with MassWildlife, as it appeals directly to his passion for local conservation – especially when it includes rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife.

“I see so much potential for BPZOO to contribute to our local conservation efforts, including providing a forever home when release isn’t an option. Having tangible impacts on the lives of animals is one of the most rewarding outcomes of zoo conservation efforts.”

The three fawns, now affectionately referred to as Annabelle, Acorn, and Thistle, were only weeks old when they arrived at BPZOO and required hand-rearing by animal care staff. After completing their required quarantine, the fawns began exploring their temporary habitat near their future home in the Zoo’s roughly ½ acre pasture. The three youngsters will eventually share that space with fellow white-tailed deer Autumn and Olive and approximately 16 species of waterfowl.

And while this story ends as a happy one, the circumstances under which two of the fawns came into human care could have easily been avoided. MassWildlife offers extensive information on their website about what to do if you encounter a fawn in the area that you believe might be in trouble.

“The number one thing to remember is to leave the fawn where it is,” says Lunsford. “It may look scared, weak, or vulnerable, but it is likely exhibiting typical fawn behaviors. If you have any questions at all, you can visit MassWidlife’s website, or give them a call and let them reassure you.”


According to a post on, if you have briefly interfered with a fawn, there are immediate steps that can be taken to rectify the situation.

“If you have taken a fawn into your care, you should immediately return it to where you found it, or to safer cover nearby (within 200 yards),” the post reads. “Then, quickly leave the area to ensure the fawn doesn’t follow you and so the mother feels safe enough to return. The mother will soon return to nurse the fawn, even after it has been handled by humans.”

About White-tailed Deer 

White-tailed deer can survive in a variety of terrestrial habitats, from the big woods of northern Maine to the deep saw grass and hammock swamps of Florida. Ideal white-tailed deer habitat would contain dense thickets (in which to hide and move about) and edges (which furnish food). White-tailed deer fawns nurse for 8 to 10 weeks before they are weaned. Young males leave their mother after one year, but young females often stay with their mother for two years. Nervous and shy animals, white-tailed deer wave their tails characteristically from side to side when they are startled and fleeing. They are extremely agile and may bound at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. White-tailed deer are also good swimmers and often enter large streams and lakes to escape predators, insects or to visit islands. 

Helping Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Helping Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo

BPZOO Proudly Supports G.R.A.C.E

During Buttonwood Park Zoo’s 2022 Wildlife Education Series, Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) was one of our featured presenters. It’s mission is to provide excellent care for rescued Grauer’s gorillas while working alongside Congolese communities to promote the conservation of wild gorillas and their habitats. Many of BPZOO’s followers tuned in to learn about the important work this organization is doing for critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas.

GRACE Center is located in a remote area next to the Tayna Nature Reserve, a priority habitat for Grauer’s gorilla conservation since around 300 gorillas live there (8% of remaining wild population) along with other endangered wildlife including chimpanzees and okapi. GRACE is the only conservation NGO located in this region and therefore plays an important role in protecting this stronghold for gorillas.

Shortly after their presentation, GRACE Center was added to BPZOO’s Conservation Donation Kiosk and in September 2022, thanks to the support of our visitors, we made a $1,000 donation to the GRACE Center. 

Our donation will help to build fuel-efficient stoves and create tree nurseries for communities living near GRACE!

How is this helping gorillas? GRACE’s work is rooted in community involvement and initiatives in order to make a real difference for Grauer’s gorillas. Communities living around GRACE are empowered to be stewards of the natural world. Their commitment to protecting wildlife and forests where Grauer’s gorillas live, near Tayna Nature Reserve, will be strengthened because of our donation.


GRACE is on a mission to touch 100,000 hearts in the greater Tayna area. With our support, communities near GRACE will receive specialized training to reduce forest pressures and reverse deforestation. This year, the GRACE Education team is partnering with local associations to lead fuel-efficient stove workshops and create woodlot nurseries. BPZOO’s gift will support the construction of fuel-efficient stoves and provide seedlings for at least 100 women and their families in the nearby community of Kagheri.

GRACE partners with leading AZA-accredited zoos because they are the world’s experts in caring for non-wild gorillas. While BPZOO is not home to gorillas, we are still committed to raising awareness for threatened and endangered species.

Click here to see 10 Ways To Be a Hero For Gorillas Everywhere!

New at the Zoo – Panamanian Golden Frog

New at the Zoo – Panamanian Golden Frog

Critically Endangered Species Front and Center to Zoo Visitors

There are new faces in the Buttonwood Park Zoo admission’s building – the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog. These five females, who arrived from the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee in the winter of 2021, have recently taken up residence in one of the terrarium habitats in the admissions lobby of the Zoo.

Panamanian golden frogs exhibit a unique behavior only seen in a few frog and toad species called ‘semaphore’ – a type of sign language – to signal to each other. They will “wave” their hands or raise and move their feet to defend their territory, try to attract a mate, or even to greet one another.

Panamanian golden frogs are critically endangered and haven’t been seen in the wild since 2009. Scientists believe that an infectious disease called chytridiomycosis, coupled with habitat loss and pressure from the illegal pet trade have caused the drastic decline in populations – an estimated 80% in the last 10 years.

“Conservation is at the heart of what we do here at BPZOO,” says Director of Conservation and Community Engagement, Josh Thompson. “Amphibians are disappearing from our planet at an alarming rate – one that far exceeds the rates of birds and mammals – and this worldwide decline is so dramatic, it is being referred to as the Global Amphibian Crisis. BPZOO is participating in a Species Survival Plan® program, or SSP, and hopes to receive a breeding recommendation in the future so that we can contribute to the assurance population of these toads in human care and avoid the path to extinction.”

The goal of an SSP is to cooperatively manage animal populations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy and genetically diverse population while enhancing the conservation of this species in the wild. This is critical for species such as the Panamanian golden frog. BPZOO is now participating in 35 AZA Species Survival Plan programs.

Zoo admission is not required to view these amphibians, or the four different species of poison dart frogs, who reside in the terrarium next to them.

BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Black Bear

BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Black Bear

Zoo Says Goodbye to Toby

The Buttonwood Park Zoo said goodbye to Toby, a 23-year-old black bear and one of BPZOO’s most iconic animals.

A team of veterinary and animal care staff at BPZOO had been managing a variety of Toby’s age-related illnesses for quite some time, including spondylosis (arthritis of the spine) and ankylosis (joint stiffness). Over the course of the last two years, Toby had responded well to treatment and keeper staff had been able to modify training, enrichment opportunities and his habitat to help ensure he was able to remain active and comfortable.

Late August 2022, the staff became increasingly concerned when Toby’s condition and quality of life began to decline, exhibiting sporadic loss of the use of his hind legs. It was at this point, with no further options for treatment and his condition worsening, that the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize him.

“Letting go of our animal residents is always challenging, particularly with those so beloved by our team and community,” said BPZOO Director, Gary Lunsford. “Our hearts go out to those who provided his care over his many years.”

Toby is the last of the three black bears that came to live at BPZOO in 2000. Hailing originally from Clark’s Trading Post in New Hampshire, he resided with fellow black bears, Amy and Ursula, who both passed away in 2020 of age-related illnesses.

Toby’s caretakers describe him as a gentle giant who loved all food – except broccoli and zucchini – and one who loved to be the center of attention.

Kristy Kaeterle, BPZOO’s Senior Zookeeper, worked with Toby for over 20 years.

“He was a big ham – he always made us laugh at how he would lounge in the sun in the funniest positions or steal all the hay overnight to make himself a king-sized bed.”

The largest of the three black bears, Toby could easily toss a large log with just one paw, but his gentle nature endeared him to all those who knew him.

“He was such a handsome guy. He was adored by all, and he will be sorely missed,” said Kaeterle.

While there is no replacing Toby, Ursula, or Amy, BPZOO is hoping to continue to care for black bears in the coming years.

“We will take a little time to make some upgrades to the habitat before moving forward,” said Lunsford. “In the meantime, we will be exploring the best candidates for making Buttonwood Park Zoo their new home.”

American black bears are one of eight species of bears found around the world. Once common across North America, they are now present in 40 U.S. states, 12 provinces and territories of Canada, and 6 states of northern Mexico. Loss of habitat and unregulated hunting/persecution resulted in extirpation of black bears across large portions of their range by the early 1900s. While loss of forest cover has eliminated black bears from many areas, their numbers are increasing. Climate change seems to have enabled black bears to range farther north. American black bears are the smallest of the three bear species in North America, ranging from 200 – 600 pounds, with males being significantly larger. Average life expectancy for American black bears is 20 years.