Winter in Chicago brings snow, cold temperatures, and a unique perspective on how zoo animals handle the coldest months of the year. Contrary to popular belief, species native to warmer climates can still thrive in a Chicago winter with the help of Animal Care staff and specific habitat features. Let’s discover how these animals acclimate and what goes into caring for them during this season.
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Active Species and Cold Adaptation
Some animals at the zoo have natural adaptations to cold climates, making it easy for them to acclimate during winter. These species include polar bears, Japanese macaques, and takins. Despite being from warmer parts of the world, they can handle and even enjoy a Chicago winter. African lions are particularly noteworthy in their ability to withstand the cold.
Caring for Animals in the Cold
Animal Care staff at the zoo have curated temperature guidelines for each species. If temperatures drop too low, some animals remain indoors for their own health and safety. Other limitations, such as wind or ice in their habitat, may also impact their access. However, certain species, like snow leopards, Canada lynx, polar bears, red pandas, seals, African penguins, and cinereous vultures, can thrive in all temperatures thanks to their natural adaptations.
Flamingos in the Snow?
Lincoln Park Zoo is home to Chilean flamingos, a species well-suited for Chicago winters due to their ability to tolerate extreme conditions. Despite being native to warm climates in South America, Chilean flamingos can handle the colder temperatures and even be seen outside in the snow.
Water Temperature at Kovler Seal Pool
During winter, guests may notice steam rising from Kovler Seal Pool. The water temperature generally remains between 55-65°F, providing a comfortable environment for the seals.
Winter Diets and Preparations
Animal diets are adjusted during the winter months. Some animals consume more food in colder weather, such as waterfowl, flamingos, swans, camels, takins, and zebras. On the other hand, species like polar bears, black bears, and seals have a natural reduction in their diets, utilizing fat stores built up in the summer.
Lincoln Park Zoo takes precautions to prepare for winter storms. They conduct snow preparedness drills, check equipment, and ensure habitats with heated rocks are functioning properly. Monitoring the weather forecast is also essential for anticipating low temperatures and snowfall.
Safety Measures and Winter Enrichment
To ensure the animals’ safety, no ice-melting products are used inside animal habitats. Sand is used instead for traction in icy areas. Surprisingly, some species, including rhinos, chimpanzees, and gorillas, enjoy spending time in the snow. This natural enrichment encourages their instincts and engages their senses, providing a unique and enjoyable experience for both the animals and visitors.
Visiting the zoo during the winter offers a ‘cool’ opportunity to see these amazing species in a different environment. So bundle up, embrace the winter wonderland, and create unforgettable memories with your favorite animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.
For more information about Lincoln Park Zoo and their conservation efforts, visit 5 WS.