NEAR BYRON, Minn. (KTTC) – To make up for this cold March weather, some might turn up the thermostat; others might put on an extra layer of clothing. But what do animals at the Zollman Zoo do when the weather is less than desirable outside?
According to the Natalie Erickson, a naturalist at Zollman Zoo, some of the animals enjoy it. “All of the animals here at the zoo are native to Minnesota, so they’re all designed for winter,” she said.
Wolves, foxes, and eagles are used to the freezing temperatures, but other animals like prairie dogs have a harder time with it. Several inches of snow currently covers their exhibit, making it difficult for them to dig out, which is why they’ll stay underground in their self-made tunnels. “They sleep a lot, but they’ll wake up and go to the bathroom and have a little snack,” added Erickson. Prairie dogs will also pack on some weight before hunkering down for the winter so they can keep warm.
Meanwhile, the zoo’s woodchucks and black bear are hibernating. Erickson says visitors won’t see them until spring.
But the animals who appear to love winter the most are the wolves and lynx. “The wolves have so much fun. They run around, play with each other. They never look cold, even on the days we’re all freezing.” That may be due to their double layer of fur, which seals out the cold temperatures and snow. “Their winter coats are so thick you can barely stick your finger in it.”
The worst part about winter at the zoo is shoveling. After a heavy snowfall, staff members have to keep the area around the electric fences clear so that the animals can’t escape. “We want to make sure the fence is working and make sure animals, like the badgers, don’t climb out of their exhibit.”