Winter is here! What happens to the animals?

Recently, we were hit with our first winter storm of the season. Here at Seneca Park Zoo, keepers are prepared for how such weather events may impact their animals. An assessment of supplies, such as working heaters, high-low thermometers and extra bedding, has been taken into account. Individual animals with special needs due to age or illness have also been considered and a plan is in place. Seasonal dietary needs have been addressed. Rest assured…the animals here at SPZ are comfy and cozy!

For some species, such as our polar bears and Amur tigers, the long, cold, Rochester winters are just right. If you visit this time of year, you may even notice an increased level of activity in Katya, one of our Amur tigers, or Gretzky, one of our Canada lynx. But for many of our animals, the dropping temperatures and accumulation of snow are not what they would experience in their home ranges. For those animals, great care is taken to be sure they are comfortable as well.

All of our animals have access to dens and off-exhibit holding areas, where they can escape the elements, and supplemental heating and bedding can be provided. Many of these areas have skylights so animals are still in bright spaces despite being inside. We believe giving our animals choices to be inside or outside is very important. You may be surprised at how much our lions enjoy playing in the snow! For smaller animals though, paths are shoveled in exhibits to help them navigate through the snow that builds up this time of year.

One animal you may not see out this time of year are the penguins. Our penguins are from South Africa, where the average temperature ranges between the mid-30s to high 80s. In cold weather, these penguins are at risk of getting frostbite on the tips of their wings and toes. This time of year is their peak breeding season, so they are quite content to be inside, in the safety of their nest boxes.

The Zoo is open year-round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days, so plan a trip soon and see what kind of changes happen when the snow begins to fly!

– Kara Masaschi, Assistant Curator