BRIDGEPORT — If you have missed seeing the animals at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, animal care specialist Emma Carney thinks some of them have missed you, too, since the zoo closed on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Some of them, I didn’t notice any changes whatsoever. Others became way more reactive to staff walking past,” Carney said Friday. “The tigers, for instance, they’re very people-focused, and the spider monkeys, so when we would walk past, it’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a person!’ They’d come over.

“They’ve always been pretty reactive to staff, because, ‘Oh, you know me, you have food right now.’ It’s just been a little bit more,” she added.

The animals will get to see some old friends soon. Closed for over two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the zoo reopens to the general public Monday. Members can visit this weekend.

The zoo will handle all ticketing online at, and entry will be as contactless as possible. Indoor areas are closed, including the cafe, but visitors can order food online and pick it up at a takeout window.

Zoo staff has been caring for animals during the closure while trying to figure out how to reintroduce people.

“The three things we are working on here that are most important are safety for our staff, our animals and our guests,” said Gregg Dancho, the zoo director.

That’ll mean staff in masks and a limited crowd: 500 visitors at a time, one crowd with tickets for a 9 a.m.-noon visit, one for 1-4 p.m., and an hour for staff to clean in between. Most pathways will be one-way, clockwise around the premises.

“We’re asking all of our guests to again stay 6 feet apart,” Dancho said.

“If you’re with a family group, that group is considered a herd. That herd will stay together, and again, keep 6 feet away from other herds. And if there’s any predator/prey here,” he deadpanned, “we’ll have to deal with it as we go along.”

While the zoo was closed, Carney said, it was a skeleton crew on the grounds.

“Normally there’s two people to most sections the majority of the time, but we didn’t want people to be too close together,” she said. “Every section of the zoo had one person at a time. We could still get everything done, but it was a lot of work.

“(Now), we’re at least all here,” she added. “We can — not necessarily relax, but we can at least get some of these projects done that were on the back burner.”

But there won’t be school groups visiting, won’t be weddings, won’t be birthday parties. People have been generous with donations, Dancho said, but they’ll need to make up revenue.

People like Justin Vaughan, an educator at the zoo, had to make some changes, too. But he sees some interesting opportunities in remote learning.

“I may have my critter in my hands or in a carrier, and even if a pre-K was there and I brought it right over to give them a look, they’re still getting this distance view,” Vaughan said. “Now, I can put it right up to the camera: it’s pretty special.”

He said they’ll offer pre-filmed presentations, edited specially for the requester’s interests and to answer students’ questions. He said he can have footage ready to stream at any time, great views of the leopard or anteater from three weeks ago, so there’s no worry about whether the animals will be hiding in the back on a given day.

But, he said, he’ll miss the campers.

“For a lot of these families, this is their normal. This is what they do during the summer. They’re part of our family,” Vaughan said. “I’ve got students who have done Zoo Patrol since I started as an intern (seven years ago). I feel very obligated to my students to be like, ‘Hey, I want you to have the summer you always have, but I want you to be safe.’”

Some of the animals will miss the campers, too. But maybe not all.

Carney said some birds, in the absence of visitors, have acted more bird-like, nesting and breeding.

“Our free-ranging birds, our guinea fowl, our peahen, I think they’ve missed people the most. People tend to throw crackers at them, things like that,” Carney said. “They’ve definitely followed the staff around a lot more, like, ‘Oh, do you have some food for me?’ I think they’ll be happy to see people again and get some of the food that they really shouldn’t be getting, but they definitely do.”; @fornabaioctp