Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zoo Animals Deal with the Snow

Animals at the Pittsburgh Zoo are meeting the snow with a variety of responses. Henry Kacprzyk is the curator of Kid’s Kingdom and Reptiles. He says animals such as the Komodo dragon and the crocodiles are never out in the cold but many of the animals seem to love the snow. The otters popped out of their burrows through 4-inch holes in the snow and then “frolicked” about in their exhibit. Kacprzyk says the sea lions that normally like the cold weather seemed a bit “freaked out” by the volume of the snow but still went out into their heated pool. The Siberian tigers are genetically prepared for the snow but Kacprzyk says they seemed to have to explore their outdoor enclosure as though it were new before becoming comfortable. He says they seemed to know where some of their landmarks, such as tree stumps or rocks, should be but could not find them under 21 inches of snow. Other animals simply “hunkered down” according to Kacprzyk. The elephants can venture out in the snow for short periods of time. Kacprzyk says on very cold and windy days, handlers need to be careful about frostbite but, “If the elephants can get a good footing they enjoy it.” The zoo has been keeping the lions inside but under normal winter conditions they are allowed outside. Kacprzyk says it is like sending your kids out to play, “You just let them out for 45 minutes to an hour.” The lion’s exhibit includes a rock that is always heated to 95 degrees and they like to relax on that from time to time. Many of the bears at the zoo slow down in the winter, much like they would in the wild, but the polar bears are ready for the winter weather. In fact, the cold seems to bring out the wild animal in the captive bred polar bears. Kacprzyk says they love to jump on the ice that forms on their pond to break it up. “They can have an open area in their pond but they seem to want to break through an area. Perhaps it is a way for them open up a spot in the wild where a seal will pop its head up through and that could be their diner.” The zoo expects to reopen Saturday.

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