Two Arctic foxes that lived at the Oleson Park Zoo have died, and the volunteers who cared for them are defending their work in the wake of the animals' deaths.
''It was a very sad event,'' said Jim Kramer, the president of the Friends of the Oleson Park Zoo. ''The death of an animal happens very infrequently, but when it does it's not through any neglect or abuse.''
Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich, who spent an hour and a half checking out the zoo Monday after a resident notified him of her concerns about the facility, said he did not see any problems with the care of the animals.
''I don't think there was anything that made me think holy cow, these animals are in danger,'' he said.
Bemrich said the zoo could use some cosmetic improvements.
Amy Von Bank, the resident who contacted Bemrich, did not reply to a phone message left at her office.
Federal inspectors gave the site a clean bill of health when they checked it late last year.
Exactly what happened to the foxes remains unknown, according to Kramer. He said they got sick and were taken to a veterinarian, who indicated there wasn't anything he could do. One of the zoo volunteers then took the foxes to their home and unsuccessfully tried to nurse them back to health. They died last week.
There was speculation that last week's heat may have been a factor in the deaths, according to Kramer.
He said the zoo animals have running water to drink and containers of water they can cool off in. He added that part of the foxes' pen has a roof over it to provide shade.
''We've never been criticized for the quality of the care,'' Kramer said.
Bemrich said that when he visited the zoo Monday ''all the animals looked to be in good health and good condition.''
The zoo is checked regularly by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Inspection records posted online show that the zoo was checked on Nov. 8, 2011, and no deficiencies were found. That was the most recent inspection for which records were available.
Although the zoo is on city property in Oleson Park at the south end of 17th Street, the animals are owned by the Friends of the Zoo. Members of that volunteer group, established in 2002, also take care of the site. Scott Groat is the volunteer manager of the zoo.
The city has a $500 budget for the zoo, according to Lori Branderhorst, the director of parks, recreation and forestry.