The Zoo’s News: How Do the Animals Cope with Cold Winter Weather?
Winter isn't here yet, but soon the temperatures will be dropping and the snow will start flying. What does the Utica Zoo do to prepare their animals for the cold months ahead?
It's another segment of "The Zoo's News." We're back with Director of Communications at the Utica Zoo, Mike Beck, who answers another listener question about the zoo. Shelby from Utica submitted a question for "The Zoo's News," asking if the Utica Zoo had to do anything different for any of the animals once it starts snowing.
Mike Beck explains that it depends on the animal. He says some of their animals actually have to go inside once the temperature falls to a certain degree (which means you won't be able to see these animals during the colder months). These animals include their Ring Tailed Lemurs, Serval, Striped Hyena, and Chinese Alligators. Beck mentions that the Chinese Alligators have already been moved inside because the weather has been too cold for them.
Besides those animals listed above, all the animals at the Utica Zoo stay out in the winter months, but Beck says they do certain things to help these animals stay warm. Again, the type of equipment they use and the different steps they take depend on the animal. Some of the animals have access to a heating building, so they can go inside and warm up. Beck also explains,
We do a lot of increasing their diets, so they can "bulk up" and gain more weight for the winter.
Porter, the male sea lion at the Utica Zoo is a great example of this. He bulks up to about 750 to 800 pounds in the winter. The sea lions grow a thick layer of blubber to help keep themselves warm (and that's something they naturally do in the wild, as well). Porter fluctuates in the 600 to 650 pound range during the rest of the year.
The Utica Zoo will also use hay to insulate a lot of the exhibits. They will also set up heated water bowls, heat lamps, and heating pads to keep the animals comfortable during our chilly winters. Beck says it usually depends on the size of the animal as well. The bigger the animal, the easier it is to deal with the colder weather.
One of the weirdest cases of the animals handling the winter, would be the African Lions. Because they are from a climate without snow, you would think they wouldn't like it. But because of their big size, and an increased diet during the winter, they actually seem to ENJOY it. Beck explains in the video (at the top of this page), that they'll sometimes make little snowballs and roll them around. Just because they're a big cat, doesn't mean they don't like to play and bat things around like most domestic cats like to.
The Utica Zoo has many different techniques and options when it comes to keeping the animals warm and comfortable when the temperature drops. This makes it possible for the zoo to stay open 363 days a year, and for visitors to see and learn about the animals throughout the entire year. Who says you can't visit the zoo in December? Just dress warm and you're set.
If you have a questions about the Utica Zoo, upcoming events, or animals they have on display, you can submit it at the link below. It may be used in an upcoming segment of "The Zoo's News."