zoo keepers in snow

Zoo Keepers Turn Snow into Fun

This week’s snowfall is creating big fun for zoo keepers and animals.  The extra clean-up is all in a day’s work, and zoo keepers welcomed the challenge with a fun and enriching attitude.

“We shoveled snow off the top of the lynx exhibit yesterday.  It was cold and the snow was heavy but Ashley [Hubbard] and I enjoyed the work,” said zoo keeper Rachel Purcell after spending Monday morning heaving loads of snow in below-freezing weather.  It was important that zoo keepers inspect the safety of all animal exhibits after Sunday night’s record snowfall, and ensure that the structures were sound.

Once the animals’ safety was in check, it was time to have a little fun with the 10+ inches of snow that nature sent our way.  Animal enrichment happens every day at the zoo, and snow provides unique opportunities for enrichment that aren’t available during the warmer months..  Animal enrichment means “providing a stimulating environment that offers physical and mental challenges for an animal.”

For the goats in the Indiana Family Farm, enrichment usually involves a snack.  Each time it snows, and when the weather is above 15 degrees, zoo keepers Heather Schuh and Kylie Kuchinsky let the goats outside for a taste of mother nature’s frozen treat.  “Yesterday we built them a snowman with food in it,” states Kuchinsky.  “They especially like molasses.”

For some zoo animals, it’s too cold to go outside during the winter months.  The Javan gibbons in the Indonesian Rainforest stay indoors in their behind-the-scenes area when the weather gets chilly, but that doesn’t mean they’re left out of the fun.  Zoo keeper Taylor Muzzillo brought the outdoors in this week when he offered the gibbons fresh snow flavored with sugar free drink mix.

Muzzillo loaded a large bucket with snow and brought it indoors.  He then built small enrichment stations in different places around the gibbons’ behind-the-scenes area.  The enrichment Muzzillo provided fell into three categories: textural, edible, and sensory – all of which provide stimulation for the animals.

“They like their snow,” stated Muzzillo.  “As soon as I open the door they all come swinging in.”

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lynx zoo attraction

There’s a New Cat in Town

Actually, we have two new cats at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!  Meet Thor and Loki, a pair of Canada lynx brothers who arrived just in time for zoo opening this week.  The cats were shy at first and spent most of their time inside the hollowed-out logs in their exhibit.  However, feline curiosity eventually prevailed and the young brothers are beginning to explore.

Canada lynx are carnivorous, so the zoo’s lynx eat a special all-meat diet mixed with vitamins and minerals.  Both of the cats are eating well and zoo keepers have found a way to encourage them to explore even more.  According to zoo keeper Rachel Purcell, “We spread their food around the exhibit.  This way they’ll come out of the logs and down the hill.” 

The cats also have distinct personalities.  Purcell states that, “Loki is a little more outgoing but Thor’s confidence is slowly coming along.  On Monday morning they spent an hour exploring near the front of the exhibit.  They’re both doing well.”

canadian lynx zoo attractionNot your household kitty cat Lynx fur is typically yellowish-brown but can include some gray. Their ears boast long, dark hairs that point straight up and act as hearing aids.  Adult lynx as well as kittens display this ear trait.  Canada lynx also have a black-tipped tail.  Lynx have long legs and large, furry paws that act as snow shoes.

A nocturnal loner Lynx usually live alone in a territory that encompasses anywhere from 5 to 100 square miles, and they are nocturnal so they sleep during the day.  The zoo’s lynx are often spotted napping inside their logs but can become active during the day time, especially in the morning.

A northern resident
Canada Lynx (also known as Canadian lynx) live throughout Canada and in northern areas of the United States.  They are typically found in forests but can also live in tundra regions.

The zoo’s Canada lynx exhibit is located just inside the front gates, across from the lion drinking fountain.  Guests can visit Thor and Loki seven days a week – Be sure to get a look at those giant paws!

Click on the pictures below to enlarge:

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