Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo

April 29, 2023/Jonathan Rundle/0 Comments

Today I’m exploring Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo (also known as the West Virginia Zoo) with my parents and my niece and nephew!

About Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo

Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo is a family-owned and operated zoo located in West Virginia. The zoo features a wide variety of animals, including exotic and domestic species, as well as native wildlife from the surrounding area.

Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo

Visitors to Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo can expect to see a range of animals, including primates, big cats, bears, reptiles, birds, and more. The zoo is particularly known for its big cat exhibit, which features a variety of species, including lions, tigers, and leopards.

Feeding the goats

The zoo provides a number of opportunities for visitors to interact with the animals, including animal encounters, animal feedings, and educational presentations. These programs are designed to provide visitors with an in-depth understanding of the animals and their role in the ecosystem.

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

Feeding the giraffe

In addition to the goats, you can feed the giraffes, which is very intimidating at first. I had no idea their tongue twisted around to grab their food.

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

On the bare hand, the tongue had a pricklier-than-expected feeling.

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

Looking around the rest of the zoo, there’s a camel, birds, alligators, and turtles.

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

The dark side of zoos

Shows like the famous “Tiger King” have shined a spotlight on small, local, privately owned zoos. In fact, this one in particular has been flagged by the USDA for numerous infractions (see here and here).

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has repeatedly cited Hovatter’s for numerous infractions, including failing to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, failing to handle animals properly, failing to keep enclosures clean, failing to provide animals with sufficient shelter from inclement weather, failing to provide safe enclosures, failing to give potable water to animals, failing to have an effective pest control program, and failing to provide enclosures that could safely contain animals.”

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

On one hand, it is nice to take the kids out to feed the giraffe and the goats. On the other hand, it’s difficult to make eye contact with the sad-looking primates on the other side of the fence. There’s no way they have enough space to live a happy life.

If you’re the type of person who can live with that, then Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo is really quite nice as a way to interact with animals. Kids will probably not notice anything off with the animals or that enclosures are too small (or yet have an opinion on if animals should ever be enclosed at all).

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

To be honest about my own feelings, I had a lot of fun with my family and the kids there. Did I notice that the enclosures seemed small? Yes. Did I feel bad about the monkeys? Yes. But I also didn’t know about all the USDA infractions beforehand. Had I known, I probably wouldn’t have taken my family there, and I won’t go back as a matter of principle.

Big cats

The big cat enclosure seems to get most of the attention in the USDA infractions. One of them indicated that photo ops with a big cat cub were dangerous as the cub they were using was too big and too cantankerous to be used in such a way. That’s pretty scary.

Hovatter's Wildlife ZooHovatter's Wildlife Zoo

Is this lion dead? I don’t know, but I’ll bet it doesn’t want to be in West Virginia.

Visiting Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo

If you decide that you’d like to go, be sure to check their Facebook page as their website has been out of date (also a red flag for how the zoo is run, isn’t it?). Admission for kids is around $10 for kids, $13 for adults plus whatever costs you’ll have in buying food for the animals. There is a gift shop and appeared to be a cafe there, too but I can’t vouch for its quality as we didn’t buy anything there.

The zoo closes seasonally and opens for a brief time in December for a drive-through Christmas lights experience.

Leave a Reply