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What Do Cold Cities Do With Zoo Animals in the Winter?

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Zoos feature animals from all over the globe. Each of these animals has its own natural habitat, and has developed a suite of coping mechanisms. Bears generally live in cold places, so they have dense fur. Cold-blooded animals live in warm places. Zoos do their best to keep animals comfortable, but changes in regional weather do affect the way the animals are displayed and cared for. For animals in colder climates, this sometimes means spending a few days indoors.

Habitat Changes

Zoos have a responsibility to provide their animals with a safe and comfortable place to live. Since animals on display live at the zoo year-round, this usually means some specific habitat tweaking. The Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, for example, uses a special heated rock for its lion exhibit. This zoo's African dogs have a heated cave to escape from the cold. Tropical animals are often kept in completely controlled, closed environments, so season changes are negligible.

Hiding from the Cold

Some animals don’t mind the cold. Polar bears and Siberian tigers, for instance, don’t have much to fear in the winter. But other animals, such as giraffes, aren’t built to cope with winter conditions. In these cases, the zoo decides what to do based on the animal’s normal habitat and its adaptability. If the animal can’t adapt to colder weather, it is moved to an indoor area where its temperature can be monitored more closely. Every zoo has a different plan of attack.

Getting Exercise

All animals need exercise, and those that are moved indoors receive regular attention from zoo staffers to ensure they’re moving around and engaging their minds. Animals are given puzzles to solve and regular attention from handlers so they stay healthy while avoiding the winter wind. Zoos work hard to keep their animals healthy, and this sometimes involves a little extra work on the part of employees during the colder months.

Staying Happy

Zoos remain open in the winter, and many animals stay on display. While you may think that winter isn’t a good time for a zoo visit, the animals actually enjoy seeing people and may be more active during cooler days, according to John Linehan, CEO of the Franklin Park Zoo. Animals that don’t see visitors can get bored and restless. Talk to your local zoo about its winter visiting hours—chances are good that you can score reduced admission rates and still see many of the same animals you’d hope to see in summer.