It was a balmy six degrees on the shores on Lake Wingra this morning, and as I made my way through the front gates of the Henry Vilas Zoo, my eyes watered and my mask froze with condensation.
If I was struggling with this weather, how did the animals survive the cold Wisconsin winter?
Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo, one of the nation’s only free zoos and one that is open year round, holds animals from across the world, including giraffes, lions, and seals. I spoke with Beth Peterson, the zoo’s General Curator, and the one in charge of staff and animal operations, about how the zoo deals with the animals during the freezing winter months. It turns out, this is a topic that the zoo has to deal with every time a new animal is brought into the zoo.
Not every animal needs to stay inside during the winter. In fact, Beth says that some of their animals prefer the cold weather.
The seals are one such animal that has no trouble dealing with the cold. A thick layer of blubber protects the seals from the temperature, and a constant flow of water in their enclosure keeps the water from freezing over, allowing them to surface wherever they please.
Some animals at the zoo, like the badgers, are native to Wisconsin, and as such have natural instincts that allow them to brave the cold.
Even if the zoo is a little quieter in the winter, it still remains open year round, and the animals certainly appreciate seeing a new face in the colder months. If you want to visit the zoo, they are open for their normal hours of 9:30 to Five, and masks are required in all areas.
Images courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team