There are no white tigers – or other exotic animals – in Ann Arbor. But for more than 30 years, a Michigan menagerie of native mammals, turtles, and snakes populated a small but thriving zoo on the U-M campus.
It was a modest zoo.
Built in 1929, the “Animal House,” as it came to be called, was tucked behind the Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building on campus, where the museum’s parking lot and east wing addition now sit. The brick, hexagonal building held six enclosures that formed a ring around a central room, where graduate students and staff prepared food for the animals that lived there. A narrow moat, guardrail, and chain-link fence surrounded the cages. A rotating cast of as many as four foxes, six raccoons, two porcupines, four skunks, four black bears, three coyotes, a badger, and possibly otters, bobcats, and opossums occupied the animal pens, although accounts vary for the latter animals. Even a wolverine, the byproduct of football coach Fielding Yost’s failed attempt at showcasing a team mascot at home games, wound up at the zoo early on.