Arctic fox

Caring for Animals in Cold Weather

Nov. 29, 2021


When winter weather settles into Indiana, there’s still lots of opportunities to get outdoors and explore at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Many of our animals are perfectly at home in these colder temperatures. Species like the Arctic fox, Amur tiger, Alaskan brown bear, California sea lion and others are native to colder climates, so our furry friends are well adapted to handle the cold and snow.

Arctic foxes are covered in thick, snowy-white fur during seasons when temperatures are low. They also have a big bushy tail, much like our red pandas, that they can wrap around their bodies for extra warmth.

We also take some additional steps to help ensure our animals — along with guests and staff — safe during the cold and snow.

The pools in our new exhibit, Alligators & Crocodiles: The Fight to Survive, are all temperature regulated to help keep these cold-blooded animals cozy during the colder months of the year. And while they are native to warmer climates, American alligators are still well adapted for winter. When the temperatures begin dropping, so do these reptiles … into the depths of the water where they can remain submerged, only poking their snouts above the surface to breathe. In the cold, their body functions slow down and they stay still to save energy needed for warmth.

Several of our other exhibits are equipped with features that help keep our animals comfortable thought the winter. For instance, one of the rocks inside the Tiger Forest is heated to give our tigers a warm, dry spot to lie down. Also, the pools in our marine mammal exhibits are temperature regulated for the animals’ comfort.

Flamingo head and neck
Fun Fact!

Most people probably wouldn’t think of our flamingos as “winter animals,” but they are perfectly well suited to colder weather. They’ll be outdoors for most of the winter.

The cold temperatures are not the only concerns in the winter months. Slick conditions are also on the forefront of our minds. To keep our animals safe, we’ll drain many of the water features in our animal habitats, if the exhibit conditions are too slick, we’ll keep our animals safe and warm indoors.

Throughout the year, we supplement our animals’ diet with trimmings from landscaping throughout the Zoo and Gardens as well as from our greenhouses, this makes it possible for our herbivores to enjoy leafy greens whether they’re indoors or out.

We don’t just have indoor spaces for our animals to stay warm in, our guests too can enjoy the heat of our indoor spaces — Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, Oceans, Deserts Dome, and Ascension St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion — guests and animals can stay warm all winter long in these locations.