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Zoo News: Brit Spaugh has the holiday spirit
The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo is on Great Bend’s Trail of Lights. Its annual “Wild Lights” display features all kinds of critters. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

The animals may not know what time of year it is, but the staff at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo are ready for the holidays.

Leroy, the elf, is back on the gifting tree for those who want to buy Christmas gifts to enrich the lives of the animals. You can pick a tag off of the tree in the Raptor Center and take it to the register with any other purchases from the gift shop. Gifts for the animals are tax-deductible and anyone who donates more than $150 on enrichment items will be invited to watch the animals enjoy them.

 Those with pets know how much animals enjoy their toys and some of the items on the zoo’s wish list are similar. There are durable dog toys that stand up to “aggressive chewers,” colorful toys for birds and the bearded dragon, and a Sit and Spin for some of the primates. Sounds and smells provide enrichment too, which is why the online wish list at ( includes a deer call and hunting scents such as “rabbit urine” or “sow in heat.”

The wish list includes toys, beds, puzzle feeders and more, according to Zoo Supervisor Ashley Burdick. “These toys are especially helpful during the colder months as they help keep the animals stimulated when they are inside due to the weather.”

Santa Visit

The zoo will host a meet and greet with Santa from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, in the Ed Shed.

Remember, the zoo will be closed on Christmas Day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Colder weather

The arctic foxes, Todd and Vixie, are wearing their white winter coats and some of the other animals, such as the bison, are also working on their winter coats, Burdick said.

“Due to the cooler temperatures, some of the animals may be off-exhibit or have access to their buildings,” she said. Typically, a good number of the animals stay inside when the temperature is below freezing (32 degrees F). The three younger grizzly bears are sleeping more, but Max, the older grizzly, will periodically have access to the big yard. 

What’s new

Colorful new “arrow signs” have been installed to help visitors navigate the zoo better, Burdick said. “We’ve got one more that we just need to put together yet, but there will be five total to help guide visitors through the zoo, in addition to the map.”

In the works

The zoo also plans to add a flight cage for its rehabilitation program for injured birds. All of the gifts to the Great Bend Zoological Society from this week’s Giving Tuesday fundraiser will go toward this project, expected to cost $40,000.

The plan is to build a cage either on zoo grounds or another suitable city property space, so the staff can fully test their patients’ flight ability. This will ensure that the birds are adequately prepared for release. Sessions with keepers are done with a creance, a fine line or cord attached to the leg of a bird to prevent escape during training. A flight cage can house birds as long as needed to build up their flight muscles, as they are able to fly more than they can during a creance session with keepers.

If you missed Giving Tuesday and would still like to make a year-end donation to the Great Bend Zoological Society or any of 100 other causes, visit the Golden Belt Community Foundation’s main page at