It’s January 5. Do you know where your alligators are?
The ‘gators at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo have gone to their winter quarters, and other animals will stay indoors more as the weather turns colder, Curator and Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said.
Anyone who grew up watching the Hanna-Barbera cartoon “Yogi Bear” might think that bears sleep all winter long in a state of hibernation — until spring arrives and they go in search of a picnic basket. That is not the case.
It’s true that a biological adaptation allows bears to store fat on their bodies for the winter and sleep more. They become less active and their metabolism is reduced. This is called torpor.
According to the Conservation Institute, animals that go into true hibernation include wood frogs and most ground squirrels.
While the zoo’s three young grizzly bears slept Wednesday afternoon, the older grizzly, Max, had the outdoor exhibit to himself.
“Our kids have been really sleepy,” Hamlin said. “They sleep in a pile on top of each other.”
However, they are not in full torpor, and still come out on warm days.
The zoo’s arctic foxes and other North American animals haven’t been bothered much by the cold, even this week when highs were in the upper 20s. African animals don’t care for it, and are given the choice to stay in their shelters.
As for the alligators, they are spending this winter in a heated shed, but the zoo is raising money to build a new winter quarters for them. A heated building with a window for public viewing would be ideal. Proceeds from the sale of 2017 zoo calendars will be dedicated to the project.
The calendars feature full-color photos of the zoo’s own animals, as well as some animal facts and important dates.
For example, Sunny the Bengal tiger is featured as the January photo. The calendar reminds us that Jan. 16 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and that Jan. 10 is National Save the Eagles Day. Saturday, Jan. 21, besides coming one day after the Presidential Inauguration, is the day of Great Bend’s Icy Sidewalk Sale.
Saturday, Jan. 14 is also a red letter day, as our grizzly bear “cubs” will turn 4 years old. If the weather is nice, they may even be awake to celebrate.
Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo 2017 calendars may be purchased in the gift shop at the zoo’s Raptor Center or at the City Office. Originally selling for $15, they have been marked down to $10.
The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in all weather, and admission is free.