Monday, October 31, 2016 - 12:30pm

Henry Vilas Zoo logoBelow are different ways you can get involved as a volunteer at the Zoo. Volunteering at the Zoo provides some great benefits:

  • Earn service hours in a fun & upbeat environment
  • Be part of a team that is focused on keeping the Zoo free & great for all members of the broader community
  • Practice mad customer service skills
  • Earn perks like (at 100+ hours/season) a behind-the-scenes animal experience

There are two main ways to volunteer – On-grounds within our Guest Services or Education roles &/Or as an Event Volunteer.  The former requires more ongoing commitment (though the frequency required varies). Event volunteering can be done more sporadically so is generally easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Guest Services & Education Roles

Below is a general outline of the volunteer opportunities available at Henry Vilas Zoo. Volunteers must attend a volunteer orientation to get started in these roles.  At this time of year, those orientations are being scheduled on an as-needed basis.  Starting in February, a wide range of dates/times will be available.  More complete job descriptions are available for many of these roles at this link:

Guest Services

Guest services volunteers work in a variety of areas to help make sure that Zoo guests get the most of their visit. Each position is available primarily April-November and has different training requirements, time commitments, and age limits. Volunteers roles:

  • Face of the Zoo Greeters (10+ with an adult or 14+ alone) Volunteers work along in pairs to greet guests, give kids hand stamps, provide helpful information to guests at one of 2 locations near the Zoo entrances, and thank donating guests for supporting the Zoo.  2-hour shifts 10-12, 12-2, 2-4.

  • Train and Carousel(minimum age is 18, though volunteers 16+ can be substitute volunteers to work as cashier or conductor) Volunteers work with a team to operate Trains & Carousel, sell tokens, and help ensure that guests have a safe and fun experience.  3.75-hour shifts - 9:30-1:15 or 12:45-4:30.

  • Goat Yard Attendants (10+ with an adult or 14+ alone) Volunteers provide great customer service by providing warm greetings & change at the goat yard, keeping the area tidy, and making sure everyone is safe.  2-hour shifts - 10-12, 12-2, 2-4.

  • Henry the Lion Mascot (14+) Volunteers work in pairs as mascot and helper to provide a smile and lots of photo opportunities for guests of all ages.  On-grounds volunteer shifts are 10-12 or 1-3pm & at special events on a varied schedule.  Year-round, volunteers are needed to staff outreach opportunities for the Zoo off-site on a varied schedule.

Conservation Education *

Conservation Education volunteers convey the conservation message that is so important to our animals and their habitats. Depending on interest and availability, volunteers may lead hands-on educational activities at a particular exhibit or via an artifact cart as Discovery Docents - (minimum age is 12, though younger volunteers can participate alongside an adult). Training for this opportunity will be offered April through July. Volunteering can be done on a very flexible basis during Zoo hours and occasionally are sought for off-grounds events.  

Volunteers 18+ with at least a year available to volunteer on a regular weekly schedule (almost exclusively, weekday morning availability is required) may train to become Animal Ambassadors.  This group of volunteers works directly with our Education Animals, presenting programs and up-close animal encounters. Weekday availability from our busiest season of April-June is the most needed, though Animal Ambassadors volunteer throughout the year. Animal Ambassadors must be willing/able to present to large groups (100+ people) and are required to make a minimum one-year commitment due to the training requirements involved.  The training process requires taking the initiative to schedule follow-up animal handling training and shadow trained volunteers at presentations.  Training sessions are offered January-March, with completion of training steps required within one month of initial training date.  Zoo Camp volunteers provide assistance for our summer camp programming.  Scheduling is flexible.


Zoo Lights – November 22 (Member Night), November 25-Jan 1st – evening hours.  Shift roles including Greeting, Ticket Taker, and Carousel.  Adopt A Day teams are groups of 10 or so on Fridays and Saturdays 5-10:15pm and 8 or so on Thursdays and Sundays 5-9:15pm.

Breakfast With Santa– December 17th & 18th – morning hours TBD.  Set-up, Serve food, clear tables, offer general hospitality.  Can accommodate groups of up to 7 volunteers including a Henry the Lion mascot and helper.

Shoe the Zoo on 3 dates – Jan 15th, Jan 28th, and February 12th. 10:45-2:15 (with warming break in the middle). This fundraising event, organized by Fontana Sports, features snowshoeing lessons at Vilas Park next to the Zoo.  Volunteer teams of 4-6 help to register participants, size show shoes, and help organize the equipment after the lesson.  Volunteers can participate in snowshoeing too!

Groups can volunteer together for these events.  How to register your group:

A group leader should request the # of spots they know they can fill, indicating preferences as early as possible. Please include names and cell #s of participating members 2-3 weeks prior to each. As main contact, you'll be responsible for sharing any event details/reminders/etc with members.

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