Prairie dog exhibit at Turtle Back Zoo receives facelift

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The county recently announced that the renovations to the prairie dog exhibit at the Turtle Back Zoo are complete and that the interactive attraction is reopened to the public. The renovations were made to enhance visitors’ viewing perspective.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the experience our visitors have at Turtle Back Zoo. The new glass walls at the prairie dog exhibit allow our visitors to get even closer to watch the animals and provide an unobstructed view of them in a natural habitat-themed space,” county Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a press release.

The exhibit received a comprehensive facelift, which included replacing all the concrete walkways around the exhibit, installing new 6-foot high glass walls around the animal area to provide unobstructed views of the “prairie,” new split-wood fencing around the perimeter of the exhibit and a small sitting area for children. In addition, the tunnels in which children can crawl through and imitate a ground hog popping up from his burrow were cleaned and repainted.

“Prairie dogs are iconic American animals that define our move west. The changes made to update this exhibit create great opportunities for the public to view these animals up close,” Turtle Back Zoo Director Brint Spencer said.

French & Parrello from Wall, N.J., designed the upgrades under an existing contract. Shauger Property Services from East Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $400,817 to perform the construction work. The Department of Public Works monitored the project and answered questions to avoid delays. Funding was provided through a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The construction started in the spring and took about four months to complete.