Now the time has come once again for the tank tops, flip flops and short shorts to get packed up again for the season (that’s okay, I don’t look so good in short shorts anyway). The end of fall is gone and we’re officially into winter. The weather has been remarkably warm for this time of year, but we’re past Thanksgiving have even knocked out the big holiday part of the year. That’s right, the buy Mikey presents and give him Stuffed Shells to eat time! The tree can come down and the mistletoe can be packed up (ladies, don’t let that stop you), and sadly, it’s the end of novelty Christmas songs for another year. I have watched all my holiday feel-good TV programs and drunk about 9 gallons of Egg Nog 🙂 Oh yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But not everything is worked up and as excited as we are. In fact, some of our animals here are downright un-excited about this time of the year. Winter isn’t for everyone it seems, and every species we have reacts differently to it. Some eat less, some get sleepy, and some wear ridiculous singing hats (oh wait, that’s the staff!) But even though our guys aren’t in the wild anymore, we still try to replicate their natural habits as much as possible.
So a huge question that I and the rest of the staff answer at pretty much every bear program is “Do they hibernate here?” The question is no. Our big kids don’t undergo true hibernation. It doesn’t get nearly cold enough to really knock them down, they just get really lazy. They’ve spent the last few months really packing on the pounds so that they need to eat very little to subsist. They still get fed three times a day, but it’s a smaller amount of food than in the summertime. But even though they are a little on the low energy side, the bears still get up to grab snacks here and there. Especially Gus – he’s always up to train or get treats. Him and MiMi take up residence in the cave to laze about, while Virginia and Yona usually stay up on the cliff. So not hibernating, but a good bit of extra sleeping happens.
As for the Lemurs, nothing goes differently with the Red Ruffed since they live completely indoors in climate control. But the Ringtails who have yard access when it is 40 degrees and up, lose their outside privileges when it gets too cold. They have 4 inside stalls to run amok in, but when it’s too cold for our tropical non-monkey primates (that’s for you Kimberly!) they stay in the nice warm building and get extra toys and enrichment to play with so they aren’t bored.
The bunch in the Farmyard are some tough kids. They endure the cold weather with a minimum of change. The pigs get a more enclosed den to shelter in, the bigger animals get their top stall doors closed to help with wind and Max our steer could care less. As long as he is fed on time, then nothing else bothers him in the least. Scout our duck will get closed in his inside stall on the nights below 30 degrees, as will the bunnies who also have a heat lamp. Our program Birds of Prey get some plastic covering to shield them from the elements as well as heated perches to keep them a little warmer.
Most of the Carolina Wildlife animals remain unaffected by the seasons change because they are in a climate controlled building. But our woodchuck Henry seems to want to knock down and hibernate for the winter this year. He’s gotten increasingly sluggish as the season gets on, he eats a lot less and spends most of his time sleeping (I’m jealous). At least I have a better chance of not being bitten for a few months.
That’s just a small portion of our animals, but since the majority of our bunch is NC natives, they all have various adaptations to make it through the cold months of the year. As for me, I’m a northern transplant. Well adapted, mind you…but I still take certain measures when the cold temps set in. I use it as an excuse to drink lots of hot cocoa, wear my comfy fleece vest, and of course nothing warms you up like a steaming calzone with cheese still bubbling out…Mmmmmmmmm…..