Fall is here. The kids have gone back to school, and things are quiet at Zoo Montana. It’s still a perfect time to come enjoy the zoo. Walk the trails, enjoy the quiet, and see the fall colors.
The leaves are turning. A perfect spot to enjoy the fall colors is along the trail from the bear exhibit past the lynx exhibit. A variety of trees and shrubs along that part of the trail show yellows, oranges, reds, and greens. There are aspen, alders, a variety of fruit trees, a maple tree, spruce trees, sumacs, and a western larch. The larch is a soft green during the summer, but turns yellow in the fall and loses its needles. It is the only deciduous conifer. You can see the larch just west of the service trail for the lynx building.
The keepers are beginning to prepare for the winter season. Soon the water features in the exhibits will be turned off to prevent ice damage. The only animals who will then be off exhibit are the beavers. They try to burrow in their exhibit which causes too much destruction, so they are housed inside for the winter. All other animals are outdoors during winter days. There is a small upper pool in the otter enclosure that is heated for them to use during the winter.
When we talk to our visitors, we are often asked how we tell the difference between some of the animals. For example, you can tell the difference between the bears. Bruno is the larger of the two if you see them side by side. Other characteristics when you see just one can help you as well. Bruno has a shorter snout and round ears. When you look straight at him, he has a teddy bear-like face. Ozzie has the classic Yellowstone Grizzly Bear appearance, a longer snout and dished forehead, and a pronounced hump.
There is a new exhibit area at the red panda enclosure. Because the three younger red pandas do not always get along, a second outdoor area has been built behind the original. On some days Daisy will be there; on others Duli and Zoe will be there. Taylor will always be in the front enclosure. By the way, why don’t the red pandas escape from their enclosure? There isn’t any roof like there is at the Lynx enclosure. Look carefully when you are there. Hint! Check out the tree trunks! Our very talented volunteer and artist Melanie is responsible for the metal sleeves that keep the pandas from climbing to escape. Did you know that we also have a bamboo garden on zoo grounds to supplement the food source that is flown in each week? You can view our bamboo garden just after you pass the Bighorn Sheep habitat, on the way to our Asia region.
All summer long we have been able to tell the lynxes apart. Fierca’s fur has a more reddish hue, while Opi is more gray. His legs are longer as well. If you look at the tufts on their ears, Fierca’s stand straight up and Opi’s curve backward. That may change as they grow their winter coats. Come to the zoo and check it out.
Come visit this fall and watch for the changes in both the animals and the vegetation as they prepare for winter.