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Zoo In Position To Fork Over Tasty Donation

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 1995

I have scouted up the perfect new site for our calamityprone, soon-to-be-history Walk in the Wild zoo:

The Union Gospel Mission kitchen.

Please, don’t thank me. When it comes to slicing and dicing the community’s meaty problems, I am Betty Crocker’s love child.

Muddle-headed zoo boosters would spend more big money they don’t have hiring a consultant to come up with a plan this tasty.

My safari of good will took but a single call. Homeless zoo animals are sure-enough welcome at Spokane’s shelter for homeless men, says Bruce Fletcher, who was lucky enough to pick up the telephone when I dialed the mission.

If the meat still is on the hoof, Fletcher says, they can take care of the butchering. “We’ve got a lot of guys who hunt, including me.”

Those who chow down at the shelter aren’t the pickiest eaters. Sometimes, adds Fletcher, the state donates road kill that is gobbled with gusto.

Fresh Walk in the Wild critters sure would be better fare. Poor mission residents need the protein from hearty dishes such as lion a la king or shish kebobcat. Mm, mm, good.

In perusing a list of the zoo’s disenfranchised stock, I see many animals that are regularly consumed by hungry Americans.

Walk in the Wild has nine elk, a mule deer, two Canada geese, four goats, a pig and six sheep. Set the table, Ma, it’s Thanksgiving!

Some other attractions are, well, a bit more exotic. Although with a little culinary creativity (plus a gallon or so of tenderizer), even the zoo’s burro could be incredibly edible.

Add some refried beans, a few tortillas and - tadah - wrap your gums around zesty burro-itos.

What to do with three iguanas? Add noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese. You’ve got iguana lasagna.

Chef Doug’s mind is a cluttered pantry of recipes.

Grated Great Horned Owl au gratin. Box Turtle du jour. Waffles Wallaroos. Apple Pan Possum….

I’ve even got dessert covered: Blend the Mexican milk snake with two scoops of ice cream and … Mexican milk snake milk shake.

For some wimps, eating snake has a high hurl factor. Fletcher says it’s all a matter of mind over reptile. The former Air Force survival school instructor claims to have dined on many a slithery beastie.

“It’s a white meat,” he says, “but really quite succulent.”

Of course, Fletcher also admits to snacking on ants and grasshoppers. “Eighty percent protein,” he adds enthusiastically.

Sending plump, yummy zoo critters on a last roundup to the mission will make the zoo boobs howl like scalded gibbons.

Unfortunately, drastic measures are needed to pull the plug on our zoological embarrassment.

Walk in the Wild’s checkered 23-year history includes animal escapes, mistreatment, mismanagement, unpaid bills, Jack Hebner and other egregious buffoonery.

Parade magazine in 1991 cited this animal penal colony as one of America’s 10 worst zoos.

Zoo boosters say great improvements have been made since they were ridiculed in the Sunday supplement. True, the zoo did add some of its more lifelike exhibits, such as a display of rubber dinosaurs and the stuffed polar bear that used to hang out at the airport.

But Walk in the Wild never has been more than a third-rate roadside attraction. It is filled with pathetic misfits such as a limping bear, a three-legged fox and a tail-less coyote.

The swan song mercifully arrived the other day. Spokane County commissioners wisely nixed a chance to accept the zoo land as a freebie from the paper company that owns it.

Walk in the Wild’s lease will not be renewed. The place is 70 grand in the hole. It’s time for deluded zoo boosters to let go.

Soon they will see that I have served up the only palatable solution and join me at the table of friendship.

Please pass the possum.

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