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Frigid Temps Force Beardsley Zoo To Close

A Pronghorn in the snow at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Beardsley Zoo
The Bison are well-suited to the coldest temperatures at the Beardsley Zoo. Photo Credit: Beardsley Zoo

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — It's too cold even for the animals at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, which is closed Saturday due to the frigid weather.

The popular family destination is normally open every day of the year (except for three holidays). But the single digit temperatures and wind chills near -20 below are too cold for the animals — and the visitors.

Whether it’s a blustery day of snow, or a string of days with bitterly cold temperatures, the animal care staff at the Beardsley Zoo keeps their animal charges safe and warm.

“Many animals adapt to the cold weather far better than we do,” said Zoo Director Gregg Dancho. “All exhibits have heated water bowls and shelter. And generally, meal sizes are increased for the outdoor animals, as they burn more calories keeping warm."

For most of the animals, their exhibits offer them the opportunity to choose whether they are outside or in, and they spend the day going back and forth, according to the zoo staff.

"Some of the Zoo’s animals are delighted to be in the midst of snow and ice, ignoring their heated dens," the zoo said in a statement.

That includes the North American River otters with their dense fur, which prepares them for a deep freeze. The Amur leopards and Amur tigers are also frigid-weather hardy, as their native home is the cold winters of the Russian Far East and China, and they happily choose the snow and wind. The Canada lynx is another species that finds January weather a breeze, with a native habitat that extends into Siberia, Alaska, and Canada, the zoo said.

Many of the North American species have evolved in cold weather climates, with heavy fur to keep them warm even in harsh winds and deep snow. Species such as the Bison, the Pronghorn, and the Red panda are well-suited to the coldest temperatures.

For the alligators and outdoor aviary turtle pond, the pool heater is turned up to 65 degrees. By increasing the temperature the heat rises off the water, and birds perch over the pond and absorb the radiant heat from the water.

Most of the animal collection can tolerate some cold, so extra thick bedding material is provided, such as straw and wood shavings, to make a warm bed for themselves.

Other animals, such as the Giant Anteaters and Chacoan peccaries, are from warm weather climates and are kept indoors when temperatures dip below 50 degrees, the zoo said.

The Prairie Dogs have their own system for beating the chill: their burrows include several underground rooms designed to keep them warm. They rarely emerge above ground when the temperature goes below freezing.

Click here for admission information for the Beardsley Zoo.

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