NO ALCOHOL. NO FIREWORKS. That's how the hand-painted sign reads at the entrance to Sequim's Olympic Game Park. After a March 26 incident in which a 3-year-old boy was bitten and pulled from a truck by an angry zebra, the park may want to add a few more no's.
Unaware of the attack, I visited the park the following day with a friend and a visiting college classmate of ours. In an atlas entry on the Olympic Peninsula, the park was cited as the former home of lovable TV bear Gentle Ben. If it was good enough for Gentle Ben, we reasoned, it would likely be an improvement over the confining habitats offered by most zoos.
We were quickly disabused of the notion. The chipper booth attendant at the main gate informed us that the buffalo like to ram into vehicles and that the zebras "have been biting today." He then asked if we'd like some bread to feed these animals. I initially declined, but after seeing the look of bewilderment on his face relented. For an additional 50 cents we were given a stale loaf of Wonder bread. Jokingly, we asked if the other foodstuffs on board would also suffice.
Doritos? "I'm not sure, but I don't see why not."
Junior Mints? "You can give it a try," he chirped.
Off we went. Mildly interested peacocks, bunnies, and prairie dogs retrieved any bread chunks that weren't immediately seized by the far more enthusiastic seagulls. We were then greeted by an assertive llama. It went straight for the tops of the car windows, which were cracked just enough for us to make our doughy offerings. Soon, another equally militant llama and a yak joined the picnic. Five minutes of hilarity and genuine fear ensued as the trio set upon the car in a seemingly choreographed mugging while our dog (bad idea) went berserk.
Though a bit unsettling, the episode temporarily distracted us from the unease we felt about feeding wildlife cheap bread. We then passed some indifferent zebras and moved on to bear country. As we drove past, two Kodiak bears sat patiently facing the roadway. We tossed more bread. One of the bears gestured—not unlike a lonesome drunk motioning to the barkeep—for more. We continued, but shame had replaced the frivolity. The rest of the tour only confirmed our assessment that this place was worse than any zoo we'd ever visited.
PAUL FONTANA firstname.lastname@example.org