Even the hardy snow leopards who call the Buffalo Zoo home might be spending a bit more time indoors over the next couple days.
Who could blame them, given the bitter cold and Arctic-like windchill?
Norah Fletchall is spending her first winter as the zoo’s president and CEO. She arrived in Buffalo last May from the Indianapolis Zoo.
Fletchall talked with WBFO about how the harsh weather impacts zoo operations. It goes without saying that some critters who are not suited to wintry weather remain inside. But Fletchall noted that many animals at the zoo thrive in cold conditions, including polar bears, bison and snow leopards.
“But even with those animals, we make sure that they always have accessed to heated areas – to their nice heated buildings where they can go inside and get warmed up,” she said. “If they choose to go outside, they can go outside.”
Experts say even the most weather-tested animals sometimes relish breaks from bone-chilling conditions.
“The snow leopards may choose not to go outside in this bitter cold. We give them that choice,” said Fletchall.
She noted that the wind is one of the most pressing concerns.
“Polar bears are built for the conditions where it’s bitter, bitter cold… but even for us here, we have to make sure that they can get out of that wind.”
And what about the region’s signature animal?
“Bison actually do quite well in this type of weather,” Fletchall said. “But our bison here, they have access to a barn where they can get inside and they have extra-deep bedding with this bitter, bitter cold. So they can get out of the wind and get warmed up.”
Of course, making sure the animals are safe and comfortable isn’t the only consideration when weather conditions take dangerous turns. Fletchall said the zoo’s groundskeepers and facilities staff are instructed to take extra precautions.
“They have to be outside, because their primary purpose is to make sure the animals are safe and well
taken care of. We advise them…not to stay outside for prolonged periods of time and to make sure they stay bundled up with the appropriate weather gear.”
Fletchall also reminds local residents that although the Buffalo Zoo is home to the region’s largest animal population, special attention should be given to other four-legged creatures.
“We’re doing our level best to take care of all of our animals,” she said. “If anybody has pets at home, make sure you’ve got them inside or that they can get out of the wind and stay warm.”