Spring Has Arrived
By: Stephanie Buckley, Associate Keeperpublished Sun April 27, 2014
It looks like the warm weather is here to stay at last! Winter is clearing out and making room for spring. The changing of seasons brings about some pretty big changes at the zoo. We throw open the front gates for our summer hours and welcome in the sunshine. With your first steps inside, you’re greeted by bright, new colors; the bright greens of the fresh budding leaves and the rainbow of the flowers blossoming in our beds. You’ll soon find our Splash Pad is in full fountain and ready for play. The weather even seems to have the animals waking up from their long winter naps, anxious to begin the new season.
Spring brings about many changes in the animal kingdom. Look closely and you might notice some of them. It’s time for everyone to wake up, start playing, and more importantly here in Mississippi, cool off! Our big old girl Tigger will be shedding her winter coat soon. I thought my house cat shed a lot; he’s got nothing on this girl! But it’s getting pretty toasty out, what else can help keep her cool? Animals love playing in water just as much as we do, but we can’t let Tigger play with us in the splash pad. Wet tiger smell worse than wet dog, trust me. Lucky for the animals, many of them have their own swimming pools. It’s not uncommon to see many of our guys splashing around and playing, having their own summer fun.
For many animals, spring means babies! Many of our birds have already begun making nests and laying their eggs, but not just our birds. If you look closely into some of the trees in the alligator pool, you’ll see some of our yearly visitors. The green herons have returned to nest in our Sypris trees, and we already have several families moved in! I hope the gators don’t mind new neighbors. But these guys aren’t our only visitors. This year we had a pair of Canadian geese decide that they liked our zoo, and wanted to stay around for a while. A few days ago, their eggs hatched and we now have three new babies swimming around our ponds. As if goslings aren’t cute enough, our prairie dog babies are starting to come out of their holes for the first time. You thought the adults were adorable! I could stay and watch them for hours, but there’s lots of work to do.
For keepers, spring brings a lot of change too. Time to lather on the sunscreen, and just like Tigger, we’ve shed our warm, wool coats for khaki shorts. Speaking of wool coats, our sheep are looking a bit fluffy. It’s time for us to sheer off all that hot fur. And while we are at it, let’s give the llamas a trim as well. They all may look pretty silly at first, but they will feel so much better. We promise not to laugh at them as long they don’t laugh at our white legs. No time to laugh now anyway, there’s more work to do. Now that everyone is looking good, we’ve got to think of fun ways to keep everybody cool this summer. One of everyone’s favorites is ice treats. These are big, frozen blocks of ice and juice with treats frozen inside of them. Even our carnivores enjoy their refreshing meat-cicles; personally, I’ll just get a slushy from concessions.
There are a lot of new things happening here at Hattiesburg zoo. So next time you visit, take a closer look. See if you can find any of our spring visitors, or any babies running around. Check the pools for someone diving around in there, if someone got a special summer treat, or maybe someone just napping in the shade (hopefully not a keeper). Don’t forget to come May 24 to the Birthday Bash celebration for our biggest spring celebration of them all!!!