CUMBERLAND — The Tri-State Zoological Park will close Oct. 2.
Bob Candy, the zoo’s owner, said closing is bittersweet, but it’s the right time. He has been looking to close the zoo for about a year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the zoo hasn’t charged for admission.
“It’s a lot of reasons,” Candy said. “Most of my animals are older. My animals are getting old, shows like Tiger King made it hard on small zoos. Our bears are 32 years old. Dodger (a capuchin monkey) is 25.”
The zoo officially opened to the public in June 2003, the Monday after Heritage Days. Candy took a big cat to the festival as a sort of primer for the zoo’s opening.
For two years before opening, Candy prepared and laid the groundwork for the zoo. He knew for much longer — around 20 years — that opening a zoo was something he wanted to do.
“I quit the real world and started the zoo,” he said.
The animals at the zoo are mostly rescue animals, meaning they are or were owned by a third party that decided they could no longer capably take care of them. Those animals will all be back to their owners by this weekend.
There are 15 to 20 animals that will be on the move in the coming days and weeks.
In recent years, the zoo, Candy and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been embroiled in various legal battles. As part of an agreement between the two parties, the rescue animals at the zoo will be going back to their owners by Sept. 8 and PETA will take animals owned by the zoo and move them to facilities across the country by Oct. 20.
“I can confirm that this is true, and that PETA is coordinating transfer of the wild and exotic animals to reputable facilities,” said David Perle, a media division manager for PETA, in an email.
The agreement between the two also absolves Candy of the outcomes of the previous lawsuits, Candy said.
“I’m trying to make it as positive as possible. Hopefully we brought a lot to the community. This is all hard. I’ve done this for the animals, the people, the community, more than for myself,” he said. Ultimately, what he hopes to do is “close with integrity.”
Candy was also known for the city’s Groundhog Day ceremony, when he annually brought the predicting groundhog Western Maryland Murray to City Hall to predict spring’s arrival. The groundhog died last year, and the city celebrated the animal during this year’s event.
Brandon Glass is a staff writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @Bglass13