The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, March 03, 1997, Page 8, Image 8

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    Photos by Daniel Luedert
KALIF, a male Bactrian camel (above), is not yawning. He stretches his mouth wide because he
is teething. Like all of Folsom’scamels, Kalif spends the winter outside.
OBIL THE HARBOR seal (above right) splashes about the pool during feeding time. The seals are
fed more in the winter to keep them warm and supply layers of fat.
Zookeepers spend winter
keeping critters warm, cozy
By Brad Davis
Staff Reporter
While the doors to the Lincoln Folsom
Children’s Zoo are closed until the weather
warms, some people may wonder what happens
to the animals they usually see basking in the sun.
For the zookeepers, winter means anything
but hibernation. It’s a full-time job.
Randy Scheer, animal curator of the Folsom
Zoo said that, depending on the animal, zoo
workers use heaters, hot pads, and heat lamps
to recreate the summer feel.
“The only challenging part is that you’re out
there all day in the cold frying to keep things
At the Folsom Zoo when the October tem
peratures start to drop to 55 degrees during the
night, zoo workers prepare for the winter sea
son, which lasts until the zoo opens April 19.
Animals start coming in at night, and reptiles,
small tropical birds, crocodiles and tortoises are
transferred to their permanent winter quarters.
“Moving a crocodile is simple,” he said.
“You have three people. One lays a towel over
its eyes, which makes the crocodile open its
mouth, which then slowly shuts.
“Then, on the count of three, I get right over
the mouth and grab the snout as another person
grabs the tail. Another person takes duct tape
and tapes its snout.”
Other animals, which are easier to move, are
given bams or boxes as shelters from the cold.
They can come and go as they please, he said.
“People see flamingos out in the water and
wonder how we can keep them there during the
winter. It’s because we supply food and keep
the water warm for them.”
Because the animals are living outside, their
food requirements also change during the winter.
“Seals get a little more fish and birds get more
protein and carbohydrates, which puts fat on
them,” Scheer said. “Humans are the same as
other animals in that if you lived outside, you
would bum a lot of fat to stay warm.”
. Scheer examines the food containers in the
mornings to make sure each animal is eating
properly. t
“I like to see a little bit of food the
morning. When I walkout to theexhibit, and the
bowl is licked clean, I don’t know if other crit
ters outdoor^ are eating their food for them,”
Scheer said.
Despite the unwanted rodents taking their
share of the zoo animals’ food, Scheer has never
had a winter-related death in the eight years he
has worked at the Lincoln zoo.
More risks are present for the zookeepers
during the winter, as well.
“You actually have to work out there when
it’s 40 below, is the only bad thing about it,”
Scheer said. “You’re all bundled up trying to fix
things and carry food.”
Jamie Wickham, a junior fisheries and wild
life major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
has been a temporary zookeeper for the Lincoln
zoo for the past two years. She said zookeepers
had to be careful handling animals in the close
proximity of their winter homes.
Although working in the cold all day can be
taxing, the zookeepers also feel there are rewards
involved to working with animals in the chilly
months, Wickham said.
“I like to be able to learn about them and the
type of care they need during the winter,” she
said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s fun.”
Scheer said animals sometimes behave dif
ferently during the winter.
“Some love the snow. Camels love to roll
around in it, otters and wallabies like it. It’s fim
to watch animals in that different environment,”
Scheer said. , *
Some of the general public has some miscon
ceptions about what happens to the zoo creatures
during the cold weather.
“People sometimes don’t understand how we
can keep camels, flamingos and kangaroos here
during the winter — the types of animals people
don’t think can live in this environment,” Scheer
said. “We wouldn’tkeep them some place where
they couldn’t be.
‘We love these things. We don’t have any
animals here that get cold.”
A NORTH AMERICAN river otters strikes a p«
Lincoln's cold In the winter.
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