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For many animals at ZooMontana, snow means fun

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Posted at 1:05 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 15:05:53-05

BILLINGS — While the chilly weather may make most of us want to spend the day inside curled up under a blanket, many animals at ZooMontana in Billings love the snow and welcome the chance for a bit of fun, said Jeff Ewelt, ZooMontana executive director, on Wednesday.

"Luckily here at the zoo, we've got several animals that love the snow. Our wolverines and our red pandas, in particular, absolutely love it. We'll see them bounding in the snow quite a bit. We'll see them frolicking and playing," Ewelt said.

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This wolf at ZooMontana in Billings doesn't mind a bit of snow in its enclosure.

Many of the animals at ZooMontana originate from areas with the same latitude as Billings or further north, so they're used to the cold winters. Ewelt said the grizzly bear Ozzy loves to play in the snow, and it's actually unique to see that behavior in a bear. Normally during this time of year, wild bears are in hibernation, but the zoo's bears don't hibernate because there's never a lack of food, Ewelt said.

But if an animal at the zoo wants to go inside to get out of the weather, that's always an option for them, Ewelt said.

"If the animal chooses to stay outside great, it can. But it doesn't have to. That animal can stay inside and stay warm if it wants to. But it's funny, rarely do they do that. When they have access, most often, not always, those animals are going to be outside and enjoying the weather and the blustery snow," Ewelt said.

But there are some animals at the zoo that need some extra help keeping warm. The pens for donkeys, alpacas and goats in the zoo's barn get outfitted with heat lamps to keep things toasty, Ewelt said. They also get extra food and a heated water bowl to avoid freezing.

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A goat at ZooMontana drinks from its heated water bowl.

Many of the zoo's animals don't need a winter jacket, Ewelt said.

"We have to remember these animals are so much more well-built than we are. Sometimes we tend to forget that. We think, 'oh, is that animal going to be okay.' Yeah, they're built for it. Wolverines, in particular, they're built for the worst conditions possible. So something like the snowfall we recently had, it's nothing for them," Ewelt said.

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