A Clovis & Portales Survival Guide
The Hillcrest Zoo in Clovis, NM had a lot more to offer than I expected. I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely be back. If I had kids I’d bring them with me.
I read a lot of terrible reviews before we came to visit. Lots of complaints about how the animals looked cramped or unhappy. Some one even had the nerve to compare this zoo to the San Diego Zoo and complain that the habitats weren’t up to their standards. My first thought of course was, I wonder if that person had ever been to a ‘non city’ zoo before. I expected something smaller, though it isn’t a huge or fancy zoo. I also expected something with less animals but they had quite a variety.
The price is definitely right at $3 entry! When you walk in the narrow gates it doesn’t look like much. The first thing you see are the lazy sun bathing hyenas and an old ‘nothin’ fancy’ koi pond. The zoo just keeps going and going though! There is a whole 22.5 acres to be exact and believe it or not, it is the 2nd largest zoo in all of New Mexico. Right here in Clovis!! Who knew, right?!
I walked through the whole thing from one end to the other in about two hours. There isn’t much to read along the way and I don’t believe they have any maps because, its just not that big. On display they of course had your regular farm animals like goats and sheep and turkeys. There were some friendly ostrich. I was surprised to see bears, alligators and giraffes. No zoo is complete without a reptile house and primates. They had both!
The one thing that I noticed on my most recent visit it that the animals are really interactive with the people who visit. I’ve been to zoo’s all over and even in some fancier ones the animals are just’on display’. They look miserable and give you that ‘I have to save this panda bear’ feeling. Usually small zoos like this take in animals that aren’t suitable for the wild for some reason or another. I think thats something to admire.
On this busy Saturday there were lots of families around. The bears were running back and forth across the walk way (on the other side of the fence of course) with the children. We watched the tiger playing clumsily in the sprinklers with an attendant. The lemurs were bouncing around in their little play area. No animal looked miserable and each seemed like they got a lot of human interaction because they weren’t ‘afraid’ of the onlookers and seemingly enjoyed the attention.
The zoo itself has a lot of local support. It was built with donated materials and local labor… including some prison labor. There isn’t one display that doesn’t have some kind of ‘sponsored by so and so’ placard up. Mainly the sponsors are local businesses and military squadrons from nearby Cannon AFB or squadron wives. Its nice to see that because the Hillcrest Zoo really is one of the only educational community outlets to bring children (that I’ve seen). It makes you realize how much this place depends on the community for funding. Also, it shows the community prides in this place a lot. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t fork over their cash to keep it running.
Feeding times are interesting to watch. I watched a HUGE snake in the reptile house take down a rabbit once, that was just fascinating. I also am pretty sure I seen an American Bald Eagle eating ground beef. It could have been something else but thats what it looked like. IDK.
I had a blast feeding the ducks and geese. There are little 25 cent machine dispensers with feed in them. Let me just interject really quickly with geese are evil. They are. Birds in general kind of creep me out but there is just terrifying anger hiding in geese and they bite! After watching the water fowl scrap and brawl over seeds for a bit I crossed over the bridge (yes, there is a sizable pond with a bridge) to see the northern wing of the zoo. This is where they keep the half donkey half zebra!! Yeah, think about that one for a sec.
This place takes about an hour to finish if you are bolting through the place but I usually stroll around and see everything and it takes me about 2 hours. There isnt too much to read along the way but it is a lot to look at. Some animals are more entertaining than others and you’ll find yourself lingering at some displays longer than others. Beware the roaming peacocks.
This is a MUST if you find yourself with nothing to do on a Saturday. There are cart and stroller rentals available for those with small kids. I highly suggest this place to anyone with kids. Benches are available if you want to make it a day and bring a bagged lunch.
On our way back to the car we were stopped in the parking lot by a friendly old couple. The woman asks from her rolled down window “Did you get to see the baby giraffe?”. We didn’t see a baby giraffe, but its so nice to know that he’s already got a fan club!
Tuesday thru Sunday
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
(LOCKDOWN AT 5:00)
Price of Admission:
12 and up—–$3.00
3 – 11———–$1.50
2 + under——-free
Household $50.00 Single $20.00