DescriptionThe Zoo was part of Manito Park from 1905 to 1932. There were several small animal cages near Rose Hill and the rock gardens, which housed skunk, coyote, bobcat, and other animals. While the zoo was a popular attraction, its upkeep proved challenging.
In 1907, the city hired the Olmsted Brothers, famed landscape architects from Massachusetts, to help the park board plan a system of city parks. The Olmsted's 1913 report recommended the Manito zoo be closed due to insufficient space and high maintenance costs. If the board insisted on keeping the zoo, the report advised keeping only animals native to the area and giving them more space to be healthy and happy. This was in direct conflict with the zoo idea, to display non-native animals that would arouse more interest. At one time the zoo had crow, owl, elk, deer, buffalo, coyote, emu, ostrich, pheasant, fox, raccoon, bobcat, cougar, pigeons, ducks, a golden eagle, and brown, black, polar, and grizzly bears.
Despite attempts to build support for the zoo and increase its popularity (including a 1917 plan to preserve deceased animals and donate them to the city), the park board was unable to justify the labor and expense given the state of the economy after 1929. It closed the zoo for good in 1932.
Spokane did not give up on the idea right away, however. In fact, in the late 1960s the city considered building a zoo in Highbridge Park. The city council consulted concessionaires and collected plans from several designers, but in the end deemed the project impractical. To this day the only zoo near Spokane is Cat Tales Zoo, located north of Spokane in Mead, Washington, which specializes in large cats.