Although most of the animals were asleep early Friday afternoon, Misty Gray still beamed with excitement as she walked the grounds of Micke Grove Zoo, where she was hired as the new zoo and interpretive services manager late last year.

“It’s a much smaller zoo than the one I came from, but it has a lot of potential,” Gray said. “We have a lot of things we hope to accomplish in the next few years.”

Gray worked as a curator at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert for three years before coming to Lodi, she said, and before that she worked for six years at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

“I’ve been in this industry for 15 years,” Gray said.

Since arriving at Micke Grove Zoo, Gray has already overseen the expansion of the black parrot exhibit — giving the birds more room to fly — and welcomed another newcomer: a Prevost’s squirrel named Kai.

“He’s still very young, only about a year and a half,” Gray said.

The young squirrel — who was napping like many of his neighbors on Friday — completed his quarantine period last week after arriving in December 2018, Gray said, and has already taken an interest in his new surroundings.

“As soon as he was out of the crate, instead of being timid or fearful he was out and exploring,” Gray said.

Gray hopes to continue expanding the zoo’s animal collection, she said, as well as offer more guest engagements such as “keeper chats” and eventually host animal training demonstrations.

“We have a lot of ideas, and right now we’re just trying to get caught up with everything because we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Gray said.

Although completing the many maintenance and repair projects the zoo needs may prove challenging, Gray said she has recently completed other projects such as hiring new staff for the zoo’s education program.

“They are just getting ready to start their big program season, which begins in February and runs through the rest of the school year,” Gray said.

Gray is also eager to watch how the zoo’s many animals react when the weather begins to change as the year progresses, she said.

“I’m curious to see how their behavior changes in the summer, when it’s hot,” Gray said.

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