TYLER, TX (KLTV) - With freezing temperatures gripping much of the country, you wouldn’t necessarily consider it ‘zoo weather’ -- and neither do the animals.
That’s why zookeepers at Caldwell Zoo in Tyler takes special precautions to make sure animals are warm and cozy in temperatures they wouldn’t otherwise live in.
“Whenever it’s under certain temperatures, we keep the animals locked in, or give access,” said Michelle Shockley, keeper in the mammal department. “On days like today, when it’s this cold, they stay locked in with heat lamps, bedding hay, nesting boxes, and a lot of enrichment to occupy their time while they’re inside.”
Zoo keepers said there are cut-off temperatures for all of their animals, and they’re species-specific. Wind chills on Monday reached into the low 20s, which is too cold for a majority of the animals except for large cats, some species of birds, and bears; the giraffes, rhinos, and elephants all enjoyed a warm afternoon in their respective pens.
“Our cheetah yards have huts on them because the building [where they are penned] is not heated. We have heat lamps installed in the huts, actually.” said Jesse Santee, also a keeper in the mammal department. “When it gets cold like this, we have to make sure we give them enough access to heat, and our huts out here are how we do it with the cheetahs."
“A lot of times our meerkats, we kind of baby them a little bit,” said Shockley. “It is a little too chilly for them. They will get access when it hits around the 40s, but anything under that we just keep them inside because they are non-adaptable to this kind of cold weather.”
In most cases, zoos will stay open even as temperatures dip below freezing. However, guests shouldn’t expect to see much; polar bears are among the only animals allowed outside below 25 degrees. Shockley said it’s a point that should serve as a reminder to pet owners who normally keep their animals outside.
“It’s just like at the zoo, please, please bring them inside,” Shockley added. “If you’re cold, they’re cold. They need the same things: shelter, heat sources, and just some general care,”