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Zoo News: There's nothing like a rat-sicle on a hot day
zoo slt frozen rat
Zookeeper Trish McKinley holds a frozen rat, a treat that is much anticipated by lioness Barusha on a hot summer day. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

It’s hot. We know, and our animals know it – including the animals at Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo.
Zoo Curator Marge Bowen said zoo staff take extra precautions this time of year to make sure the animals aren’t overly stressed by the heat.
“The good thing about all of these animals is they’re all acclimated to Kansas,” Bowen said. All animals that are susceptible to heat are supplied with misters to stand under. And when the temperature rises above 95 degrees, their cement enclosures – which are usually only available to them at night – are opened so the animals can go inside if they find that more comfortable.
Of course, that means there may not be as many animals to look at on hot afternoons. The best time of day for viewing is between 10 and 11 a.m., Bowen said. That’s also true in cooler weather, she added, because even when they’re outside a lot of animals are less active in the afternoon.
Some animals actually thrive on the heat, but humans can keep cool in the zoo’s air conditioned Raptor Center, which features exhibits and a Critter Corner, as well as a gift shop. The aquariums are also in an air-conditioned building.
Some animals are given two-liter blocks of ice, to keep them cool and to play with in the heat. And meat eaters such as the lions are fond of frozen rats – a real treat on a hot day. These “rat-sicles,” like the ordinary rats fed to the zoo’s big cats, are purchased from a zoological supply source. Bowen said none of the zoo’s animals get a diet of “live” meat.