BPZOO Updates Operating Hours

BPZOO Updates Operating Hours

New Bedford, Massachusetts: The Buttonwood Park Zoo is announcing a slight change to operating hours for the upcoming spring and summer season.

Starting April 1, BPZOO will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week, a slight change from previous summer and spring seasons. The Zoo is also eliminating the “last admission” time of 3:15 p.m.

“The guest experience is paramount to us,” Gary Lunsford, BPZOO’s Director of Zoological Services, said. “We examined feedback and carefully monitored animal behavior in the late afternoon hours and found that closing at 4 p.m. ensures our guests get the best out of their visit to the Zoo.”

BPZOO strives to ensure community access and works with many community organizations to provide discounted or free admission. The New Bedford Free Public Library offers up to four admission passes to New Bedford residents as do 33 other free public libraries in communities across the region.

BPZOO is proud to participate in the “Card to Culture” program and offers 50% off four admission tickets to Massachusetts EBT, WIC, and Commonwealth Care card holders.

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is located at 425 Hawthorn St. in New Bedford and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, apart from Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Ticket prices for non-New Bedford Residents are $10 for adults/$6 for children 3-12; Ticket prices for New Bedford Residents are $7.50 for adults/$4.50 for children 3-12. Annual membership passes are also available please click here for more information. To purchase tickets, please click here.


BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Cougar

BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Cougar

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is sad to announce that Nikki, a fourteen-year-old female cougar, passed away on February 22nd, 2024, after a period of rapid decline due to end-stage chronic kidney disease.

Orphaned in the wild in Oregon in 2010, Nikki found a forever home at BPZOO alongside Riley, the male cougar she shared a habitat with. Described by team members as willful and stubborn, with a strong sense of what she did and did not want, Nikki held a special place in the hearts of her Zookeepers.

“You knew when she trusted you,” said Katie Harding, a member of the BPZOO’s animal care staff who spent thirteen years working with Nikki. “It wasn’t easy, but when you got there, you knew you were lucky to be part of her circle.”

Being part of that circle meant getting a peek inside her fun, and sometimes quirky, personality through training exercises and enrichment items – finding something that truly amused her could feel like a huge win.

Steph Durette-Medeiros smiled as she remembered watching Nikki explore various enrichment she provided.

“She had a love/hate relationship with large plastic items.  She would go crazy for the blue plastic barrel that was in her habitat with her. She also loved the mirror that was in there, as well as the buoys we used for target training – it brought us a lot of joy to see those natural behaviors come out because of things we made for her.”

It was also special to see the deep bond between Nikki and Riley – BPZOO’s male cougar – who spent their time together either snuggling or playing. At the advanced age of fourteen, Riley also shows signs of kidney disease, but is continuing to participate in treatments.

BPZOO veterinarian and animal care team noticed a change in Nikki over the past few weeks. Her appetite began to decrease, and she was noticeably lethargic. Once she began refusing food, medication was no longer an option. The decision was made to humanely euthanize Nikki, surrounded by those she carefully selected to be in her inner circle.

“These decisions are always difficult,” said Gary Lunsford, Director of Zoological Services.  “The team does everything possible to provide the best lives for our animal residents, and it isn’t easy to let them go.  Animals in professional care at accredited zoos often live well beyond their normal life expectancy with ongoing veterinary care.  It is a challenging week for the team as we are engaged in similar discussions regarding our cow, Daisy, as she succumbs to a chronic uterine tumor.”

“I am truly honored to have gotten to work so closely with Nikki,” said Dr. Emmy Budas, BPZOO’s Veterinarian. “We have been doing daily training sessions with her for the past few months to improve her treatment plan. Nikki is normally very picky about the people she chooses to trust, and I am very grateful to have been considered one of those people.”

Dr. Emmy and her team will continue to monitor Riley’s health closely over the next few weeks and months. BPZOO continues to be a sanctuary for non-releasable, rehabilitated wildlife and is prepared to answer the call if the opportunity to provide a home for a young cougar arises.

Nikki will be deeply missed by everyone at BPZOO.

BPZOO Supports International Red Panda Conservation Initiatives

BPZOO Supports International Red Panda Conservation Initiatives

There is no arguing that BPZOO’s red panda family are among some of the most charismatic, adorable, and beloved animals in New Bedford. They are also working overtime as ambassadors to their species, inspiring the New Bedford community to care about red panda conservation efforts in the wild. Thanks to this community commitment, BPZOO has again been recognized as a Reforestation Sponsor of the Red Panda Network for a recent $5,000 donation.  This donation was made in honor of International Red Panda Day on September 17, 2023. A day of celebration and education, inspired guests donated an impressive $500 which contributed to the Zoo’s 2023 Reforestation Sponsorship.

Founded in 2007, the Red Panda Network has become a world leader in efforts to save red pandas and their habitat. They use an integrated, landscape-level approach to conservation that is built on the support and participation of local communities. Their conservation programs extend to over one million acres of forest and 50% of Nepal’s red panda range. BPZOO has contributed $10,000 over the last two years helping to protect five acres of critical red panda habitat through purchasing, growing, and planting trees. The sponsorship also supports the salary of one local land steward in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor in eastern Nepal a critical location for red panda conservation that has been heavily fragmented and degraded by deforestation as well as provides alternative and sustainable income opportunities for local families. With BPZOO’s continued support, the Red Panda Network will be able to establish a bio-bridge that connects the fragmented patches of Community Forest on the Nepal side with the protected areas in India.

In 2019, Buttonwood Park Zoo unveiled its first ever red panda habitat. Since then, thanks to the success of our Conservation Donation Kiosk and the commitment of our staff, we have donated $17,000 to the Red Panda Network. Resident red pandas, Jacob, Marie, and their cubs, serve as ambassadors for their species and together we will continue to inspire our guests and work to protect wildlife and wild places.

“BPZOO is proud to be part of a community that shares our deep commitment to conservation,” said Gary Lunsford, Director of Zoological Services. “It is through this shared value that we have again been recognized as a conservation partner to vital organizations like the Red Panda Network. I cannot thank our community enough for their efforts in making this happen.”

About Red Pandas

Red pandas are an endangered species endemic to the Himalayas in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma) and southern China. The global red panda population has declined by 50% in 20 years and there may be as few as 2,500 remaining in the wild. Habitat loss and fragmentation is the primary threat, and it is compounded by increasing human population, livestock herding, free-roaming dogs and disease, poaching and illegal trade, logging, world climate change, and inadequate enforcement of laws and regulations. While this sounds grim, there is hope for this species thanks to the dedication of AZA accredited facilities and their partner conservation organizations.

BPZOO’s Seal Pod is Now at Three

BPZOO’s Seal Pod is Now at Three

BPZOO’s Seal Pod is Now at Three

Pictured Above: Luna

New Bedford, Massachusetts: The Buttonwood Park Zoo is thrilled to introduce two new female harbor seals to the New Bedford community – Luna, age two, and Conway, age one. These new residents arrived in early November from the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, NY, and have already bonded with long-time zoo resident, Blue.

Blue was born at BPZOO in 2003 to Yellow, a female Atlantic harbor seal who passed away earlier this year, one week shy of her 40th birthday. Wanting to ensure companionship for Blue, as well as support the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan, Zoo leadership eagerly accepted the recommendation to bring Luna and Conway to BPZOO.

Both seals were introduced to Blue straight away, and they quickly acclimated to their new home.

“There were lots of nose-to-nose breath exchanges at first and then Luna immediately sat on Blue’s back – who was not bothered by it in the least,” said Kristy Kaeterle, BPZOO’s head Zookeeper. “We knew then that this was going to go well!”

Kaeterle describes Conway, who had darker coloring and more obvious white markings, as a little seal with lots of personality. “She made herself at home immediately – she follows us around quite a bit and is very interested in the enrichment we offer. Luna is a little more reserved but is coming out of her shell more and more each day.”

Luna, who was born on the night of a lunar eclipse and named after Luna Park on Coney Island, has a similar appearance to Blue – lighter grey with darker spots. Conway was named after the late Dr. William Conway, an iconic conservationist who retired as the president and general director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization that manages the Brooklyn Aquarium.

BPZOO has cared for seals for over five decades and as a waterfront community, is dedicated to connecting visitors to the importance of marine mammal conservation.

“The team is excited to welcome the new harbor seals to our pod at the Buttonwood Park Zoo. We are grateful to have this opportunity to create new zoo families through partnerships with our accredited zoo neighbors and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). ” said Gary Lunsford, Zoo Director.

All three seals are currently visible in the seal habitat, located in the middle of the Zoo.

Keeper Kyler with Yellow the Harbor Seal

Pictured Above: Conway

About Atlantic Harbor Seals

Seals are part of a group of mammals called pinnipeds, which translates to “fin-footed”. There are a total of 18 species in the Phocidae family. Harbor seals are part of the true seal family. All true seals have short forelimbs, or flippers. They also lack external ear flaps and instead have a small hole (opening to the ear canal) on either side of their head. Harbor seals live in temperate coastal habitats along the northern coasts of North America, Europe, and Asia. They weigh up to 285 pounds and measure up to 6 feet in length. In North America males are slightly larger than females, and seals in Alaska and the Pacific Ocean are generally larger than those found in the Atlantic Ocean. Harbor seals, like all marine mammals, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are currently listed as Least Concern according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A Gift That Lasts All Year! 

BPZOO Memberships make a perfect gift for the animal lover in your life.

BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Guinea Hog

BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Guinea Hog

Zoo Says Goodbye to Gladys

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of our guinea hog, Gladys. From her gentle snorts to her playful antics, she captured the hearts of everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her.


Keeper Kate fondly remembers the moments when she would do maintenance in Gladys’ habitat, and Gladys would seek attention by bumping her snout against Kate’s leg, just like a cat head-butting someone when they want love. Gladys was quite the “attention hog,” always demanding love and affection from everyone. She loved going for walks around the zoo, and getting belly rubs, melting our hearts with her playful nature.


Guinea hogs are a landrace breed unique to the United States. For over 14 years, Gladys was an essential part of our mission to educate our guests about the importance of preserving heritage breeds and livestock diversity and its significance for the future of our agricultural food system.


As Keeper Steph says, Gladys was a smart old lady who will forever be in our hearts.
First Taste of Fall

First Taste of Fall

First Tase of Fall Logo with image of a woman pouring a beer sample
date reads: September 23, 2023 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Support the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society as you sample local breweries, wineries, and food trucks at our First Taste of Fall event happening

Saturday, September 23rd

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

VIP Entry at 3:00 pm

General admission ticket purchase provides you with zoo admission, your own souvenir sampling glass, unlimited beer/wine samples, animal encounters, and great live entertainment.This is a 21+ event, so have your ID ready at the gate! Food will be available for purchase during the event.A portion of the proceeds will benefit the continued growth of the Buttonwood Park Zoo’s educational programs, ensuring that Southcoast families will always have a way to experience nature close to home.

Purchase your tickets today!

$55 per General Admission Ticket | $30 per Designated Driver Ticket.

*Please note, the designated driver ticket does not include samples.* 

Your Ticket Includes:

  • Unlimited Samples from 24+ breweries
  • Tasting Cup
  • Animal Encounters

$90 per VIP Ticket | $45 per VIP Designated Driver Ticket

*Please note, the designated driver ticket does not include samples.* 

VIP Perks – Everything General Admission receives plus:

  • Early entry – 1 more hour of fun!
  • $10 Food Voucher to use at a food truck
  • VIP special sampling glass
  • Exclusive VIP samples
  • Light complimentary snack
Brewery Line Up


Food Trucks


Thank You to Our Sponsors!