Here at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, our ambassador birds, reptiles, and mammals prepare for winter with a little bit of help from our team. Birds of prey need to increase their body weight by 25-30% to meet the energy demands of the colder weather. Our Ambassador Care Team helps them meet and maintain this goal by increasing their daily diets in the fall and then by monitoring their weights, body condition, and behavior ensuring they remain healthy and happy through the winter months. If we are expecting inclement weather or extremely cool temperatures, we will keep the birds in their indoor habitats until the weather improves.
Our reptile ambassadors often behave opposite of our birds during the winter. While our box turtle and skink do not go into brumation in captivity, which is the reptile equivalent of a mammal hibernating, their metabolism often slows down during the winter which in turn decreases their appetite. Our Ambassador Care Team closely monitors their weight, behavior, and food intake to make sure that their diets reflect their seasonal needs.
For our mammals, there is not much that we need to change for the winter. We continue monitoring their weight, appetite, and behavior as we do throughout the year. We make sure the heat is on and the air conditioning is off, as we would do in our own homes. The one difference is their daily walks are no longer outside but instead occur inside their building.
During the winter months, we also provide more frequent enrichment to help keep our ambassador animals’ minds stimulated and encourage them to be active in their indoor habitats. Enrichment can include items such as novelty foods, different presentation of food, different scents, new toys, their habitat furniture moved or changed, and even providing auditory enrichment such as music or animal sounds playing softly in the background.
We hope everyone is prepared for the winter and that you get to enjoy seasonal food, music, and activities like our ambassador animals. Happy Holidays!
Written by Mackenzie Wells, Class of 2024