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KC Zoo prepares animals, exhibits for winter

Posted at 6:21 AM, Nov 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-13 08:47:43-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Crews at the Kansas City Zoo have begun preparing the exhibits and animals for the winter.

One animal you will likely not see over the coming months is the giraffe. They can't be outside if it is colder than 65 degrees. They spend most of the winter in a large barn that stays at 70 degrees all year round. 

"We give them lots of toys they can move around, or sensory enrichment, so they smell something different with their day," said Vicky McMillan, team lead Savannah. "A lot of them are toys that hang or are on the ground so they can kick them. We also do training with them to keep their mind simulated."

Every animal has a temperature parameter.

The orangutans can be out as long as it's at least 45 degrees outside. Some of the birds will head inside for the winter, but flamingos can be out in the snow.

Cheetahs and lions can be out in the freezing weather, too, although you may find them laying on some of the heated rocks inside their den.

"In the winter, we put a lot of energy into making sure we are blocking wind or adding heat sources," said Sean Putney, Sr Director for Zoological Operations. "We might put straw in certain areas, add heaters to an exhibit so they have a place where they can go and warm up."

Often times during the cold and warm months, they'll allow the animals to have access to their indoor enclosures so they can warm up or cool down throughout the day.

One of the KC zoo's biggest concerns is making sure the staff can make it in to take care of the animals during snow or ice storms.

"Last year we had, we called it Icemageddon," said Putney. "We had a group of keepers that stayed overnight, a skeleton crew that was prepared to do all of the work the next day."

Those crew members are in charge of making sure every animal is fed and given the medication they need.

Ice can also cause dangerous conditions for some of the animals.

"When we start getting ice or snow, where it melts and refreezes, we have to start worrying about giraffe's hurting themselves or kangaroos hopping along and hitting a slick spot," said Putney.

The Kansas City Zoo is open year round and offers several indoor animal viewing options for those cold winter days.