Written By- Linda Garbe, MPZS Advisory Board Member
No matter what the temperature, animals, zookeepers, volunteers, and guests are at the Zoo. The only exceptions are Thanksgiving and Christmas day when the zoo is closed to guests. In winter parking lots and sidewalks are cleared and guests are welcome.
As winter approaches zookeepers take down all misters and set-up heated water bowls, put out extra bedding for more insulation, feed some animals more, and provide more enrichment to animals that do not go outside.
Animals accustomed to Illinois winters have no change in habitat but may get more food which provides extra calories needed to keep warm. The opposite is true for many reptiles, their diet decreases. It is already cold enough that the alligators don't eat much and probably won't until it starts warming up again in April.
Many animals in outdoor exhibits have access to heated indoor shelter when they choose. Some animals are moved inside for the winter and get heat lamps and extra bedding. A few animals including Red Ruffed Lemurs, birds from Australia, and the Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine are moved inside and are not on exhibit until spring.
Whether it is 105° F or -25° F animals need to be fed and enclosures cleaned.
Zookeepers and volunteers are on duty. They suit up and show up no matter what. The polar vortex of 2018 did not stop them. Nor did it stop the otters from frolicking in their pool oblivious to the cold.
So suit up and come on down. The Zoo is open.