My two kids and I have always enjoyed winter outings at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue’s Ecomuseum Zoo. Bundled up well, it’s a great way to spend time outdoors while enjoying some of Quebec’s wildlife in their natural setting. There are playful otters to visit, owls to quietly wave at, and the cutest ducks splashing merrily in their pond. Once home after a few hours of walking the paths, and then retracing our steps for a second lap around, my two would nap almost as well as the hibernating black bears. Parental bliss!
They’re older now — and sadly, naps are well behind us — but they still enjoy checking out the animals and hanging out with their mom. Luckily for us, we were able to spend a sun-filled (and fun-filled) day at the outdoor zoo during last year’s spring break, right before the pandemic had it shutting its gates to the public.
A challenging 2020
The Ecomuseum and its staff have had a rough year. Closed to visitors from March 16 until June 2020, and then again from October until mid-February 2021 — the non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education, wildlife conservation and animal well-being is just preparing to welcome guests back — with new safety measures in place.
Some of the changes include the mandatory wearing of face masks or face coverings at all times inside the main pavilion, as well as on the outdoor pathways (for visitors 10 and over.)
Though not mandated by the government, Executive Director David Rodrigue says the reason they are requiring masks outdoors is two-fold: “We feel we have a social responsibility to participate in not contributing to another spike [in cases] and having that affect everybody,” he said. “The added benefit to that is this allows us to remove the one-way path that we had around the site.” The zoo will also be able to open up previously restricted spaces. “It will make the experience even better because we can reopen areas that were not accessible when we had the one-way path going around the site,” he added.
A big change is in admission procedures. All guests (including zoo members) are now required to pre-purchase their tickets online and select a date and arrival time slot.
“We have to do this for social distancing,” Rodrigue explained. “You have to pick a one-hour slot during which you come in – so from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., or 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., etc. You can stay as long as you want, but you have to come in during that time slot.”
Children 2 and under do not require reservations and enter for free.
Hand washing stations are available at the main pavilion and washrooms and changing tables are accessible as usual. Bring along your reusable water bottles to fill up at the water fountains, and if you don’t have your own snacks, you can purchase some at the regularly sanitized vending machines. Indoor exhibits in the main pavilion are temporarily closed, as is the outdoor children’s playground.
In order to comply with the measures established by Quebec’s Public Health, paper maps won’t be handed out, but you can download the Ondago app on your mobile device before you go.
For now, special events like educational presentations aren’t being offered, though staff are working to try and hold them as soon as possible. “Right now we’re focusing on welcoming people back and making it a safe environment,” Rodrigue said. “But, we are already working on having a formula for Easter, which is very popular here and something that people both locally and regionally wait for every year. We’ll be spreading it over four days instead of two. And we’re working out ways to have Easter activities as well. Understandably it won’t be what it usually is, because we can’t, but we’ll do as much as possible.”
The Zoo will welcome visitors starting Friday, February 12, 2021, and will be open Wednesdays to Sundays. Starting on March 1, it will open every day.
To purchase tickets online visit billetterie.zooecomuseum.ca/en/tickets.htm and make sure to read the safety measures and information before going.
Address: The Ecomuseum Zoo is located at 21125 Chemin Ste-Marie in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. Parking is free.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org