Pasco zoo animals get special attention in cold weather - WFLA News Channel 8

Pasco zoo animals get special attention in cold weather

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"Gabby", a Florida panther, soaks up the warm sun on a cold morning at Dade City's Wild Things Zoo in Pasco County. "Gabby", a Florida panther, soaks up the warm sun on a cold morning at Dade City's Wild Things Zoo in Pasco County.
DADE CITY, FL (WFLA) -

The animals at Dade City's Wild Things zoo have made it through another cold night. Having over 300 animals, some as large as 600 pound tigers, prevents the zoo keepers from bringing them into their home.

So, head animal trainer Randy Stearns says they have come up with several ways to keep their animals protected from the frigid temperatures. Bird cages are covered to block the wind and heat lamps are used to warm up the inside. The same method is used to keep a marmoset safe from the cold. Stearns says even if it is 32 degrees outside, the temperature in the protected cage will be in the 50s.

Throughout the night, zoo staff make the rounds to check on the animals.

"We want to make sure a heat bulb doesn't go out. One of the covers don't get blown off," Stearns said.

Not all of the animals at the zoo need extra protection on cold nights. 'Mason' is a Florida native coyote. He has developed a winter coat and he snuggles with three other coyotes, just like he would do in the wild to survive the cold.

The jaguars at the zoo also use each other's body heat to stay warm. According to Stearns, the larger cats like the tigers prefer the cold weather.

"Tigers have that thick fur coat year round so this little bit cool they don't care because in their natural habitat they would be surrounded by snow," Stearns said.

Many of the enclosures have habitats that simulate what the animals would use in the wild. The black bears have a cave that keeps them protected from the cold winds. And the Florida panthers have a house that closely resembles a den.

If the temperatures get too low, some of the small or delicate animals are brought indoors.

Stearns says it's a lot of work with very little sleep but he loves his job and his animals.


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