Brrr... Cold Weather on the Wild Side

Brrrrr-----It’s cold out there!

This week saw the first snow of the winter season! For humans, this means holidays, sledding and cocoa. Winter for our animals is an exciting time as well!

As their caretakers, it is our job to ensure our animals remain safe and comfortable during all conditions. Our varied Oklahoma City weather offers our animals the chance to experience a wide variety of temperatures and conditions. Cold weather and snow can often create a playful atmosphere where animals are running, rolling and very active. 

While some of our animals do have specific weather parameters to indicate when they need to remain inside, just like people, our animals have individual preferences when it comes to the weather. Species like bison, grizzly bears and snow leopards are usually perfectly comfortable on cold or snowy days. Others like our giraffes are more likely to only poke a head out of a warm barn to see the snow fall. 

The animal habitats at the Oklahoma City Zoo are designed to offer the animals variety in where they spend their day. Our caretakers are continuously monitoring animals during varied weather and will often offer the animals the choice of being out in the habitats or staying in where it is warmer rather than decide for them. For this reason, you may spot a warm weather species enjoying the cold weather from the comfort of a camouflaged heat rock or a cold tempered species headed inside to warm up for a few moments before heading back out to play. We always welcome the opportunity to provide choices for our animals. This can mean new food items, toys, or environmental changes includes different weather and temperatures. In addition to encouraging a variety in environments, all of our animals participate in our behavioral enrichment program. 

Our behavioral enrichment program encourages our animals to display species appropriate behavior whether they are choosing inside or outside habitats. This can be many things such as ice treats or even our grizzly bears digging a den for winter time. This means no matter where they decide to spend their day, they always have many choices regarding activities. Winter time at the Zoo can be a great opportunity to see animals you may be less likely to see in warmer temperatures. Although we can never guarantee whether an animal will choose to come outside to enjoy the snow, it is always fun to watch when they do!

-Kim Leser, Curator of Behavioral Health and Animal Welfare

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