Field Conservation Projects
Every year John Ball Zoo sends Keepers out into the field to help with conservation projects around Michigan and abroad. Keepers put their expertise to good use helping native species.
The Massasauga is Michigan's only venomous snake and plays an important role in the ecosystem. Unfortunately, these snakes are declining in numbers and are considered a Species of Concern here in Michigan, other states have them listed as endangered or threatened. John Ball Zoo works with other zoos, the Michigan DNR, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in a long term monitoring program to learn more about the Massasauga in hopes of helping them recover and thrive again. Every spring the team, including keepers for John Ball Zoo, head out to the swamps to find Massasauga's and tag them. Over the past 6 years over 400 individual snakes have been succesfully tagged. The information gathered has been invaluable to helping this important species of snake.
The plover is a small, migratory shorebird that is highly endangered in Michigan and surrounding areas, with only about 60 breeding pairs left in their Great Lakes range. These little birds nest on the beaches of Lake Michigan and Huron in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio. Each summer JBZ keepers join others at the U of M's biological station in Pellston, MI to help monitor the Piping Plovers. Volunteers at the station monitor and protect nests on beaches, take in orphaned chicks or abandoned eggs and rear them to be released back into the wild.
Wood turtles are considered a species of concern in Michigan as their populations have been declining in recent years. John Ball Zoo has been working in collaboration with Jim Harding of MSU in a head-starting program. Harding collects wood turtle eggs from nests in the upper peninsula. This area of the U.P. sees almost no hatchlings in the wild due to racoon predation. The eggs are incubated and hatchlings are then sent to John Ball Zoo for headstarting. Keeper and vet staff at John Ball Zoo house, care for, and feed the small turtles who are then re-released at their nesting sites approximatly 10 months later. This process allows them to get a head start, growing larger than they would in the wild and thus giving them a chance to avoid predation. Over the past 7 years of John Ball Zoo's involvement with the program we have helped 80 turtles.