Extreme Cold Frightful for Humans, Delightful for Animals at Zoo
According to Lake Superior Zookeepers, their animals are no strangers to climates like this.
DULUTH, Minn.- While humans have to take extra safety measures in this extreme cold, many animals at the Lake Superior Zoo love to be outside – but with windchills this low, things like frostbite are a still a danger, regardless of species.
“Most all of the animals that we have here if they’re outside this is gonna be similar to a natural habitat for them,” said Lizzy Larson, Primary Carnivore Zookeeper.
According to zookeepers, their animals are no strangers to climates like this.
“Honestly there are a lot of animals here who are actually more active in the wintertime, like our tiger Taj or our new snow leopard who really appreciates being able to have that cold weather that’s such a natural habitat for them,” Larson said.
Animals that normally hibernate like the zoo’s bears are more sluggish in the winter. But even winter-lovers like Taj the Tiger need to come in and rest.
The Amur Tiger Holding Area is a row of gated rooms connected by doggy door to the enclosure. “Right now we’re in her bedroom area where she can sleep in here, she can play in here if she wants to. We have food and water in here for her,” said Larson.
And while outside, Taj even has her own personal heater.
“She actually has a heated rack out in her exhibit that has those in-floor heating coils that you might have, in say your bathroom or something like that to keep your feet warm,” the Carnivore Zookeeper said.
Meanwhile there are other animals at the zoo less acclimated to Minnesota winters.
“The cranes and the coop birds, those guys are locked in every night anyways,” said Jessica Phoenix, Barn and Asian and Minnesota Animals Zookeeper. “But if it still stays down with a windchill advisory or coming then I’ll keep the locked in during the day too. “
Those exotic birds and barn animals like goats and sheep have been kept inside with extra hay these past few as the windchill drops. This also allows zookeepers to watch for signs of frostbite.
“Color changes in their skin — it’ll turn like a reddish color, then it all turns darker after a while,” Phoenix described, “they’re, if they’re not using their limbs properly like they’re walking around funny.”
Being inside warm and toasty, these animals do what many of us humans can probably relate to doing when we feel it’s too cold to go outside — nothing.
“They don’t seem to do much,” said Phoenix. “If it gets really, really cold they do kinda lay around in their beds.”
Zookeepers say the animals they care for here allows people a better look at species that can withstand or enjoy a climate like ours.
“So many animals don’t actually do really well in really hot climates,” Larson said, “so being able to have a zoo up here in Duluth is such an asset to be able to have these animals that do really well in the cold such as a snow leopard or something.”