Animals at the Chattanooga Zoo spending more time outside in the - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Animals at the Chattanooga Zoo spending more time outside in the cold

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Despite this very cold week, the Chattanooga Zoo is still open, and many of the animals are spending the night in their habitats. Alpacas, Beckham and Daxton, are relying on their fur coats, but the zoo staff is working to keep other animals warm and out of the elements.

The frigid temperatures are not getting in the way of seeing what the Chattanooga Zoo has to offer. The zoo employees have been preparing for weeks,
bringing in heat lamps when temperatures dropped to 32 degrees.

Stacy Laberdee, the General Curator at the Chattanooga Zoo says, "we're actually very careful with any kind of space heaters, and heat lamps that we use, to make sure they're secure, make sure they're in spaces where they're not going to fall or an animal is able to get to it."

Infrared heat lamps are placed where the Red Tailed Hawk and North American Vulture can't reach.

Electrical heat lamps were added to dens for chimpanzees, coyotes and snow leopards, but the lamps aren't used for survival, just comfort.

"Their tails are very long and fluffy, and they actually can use their tails as a muff almost kind of wrap around their body," Laberdee adds about the Snow Leopards.

The reptiles on other hand can't survive the freezing temperatures. Staff moved them inside back in October when temperatures dropped below 60 degrees. They won't be out again until May or June.

The Alpaca are one of the very few animals at the Chattanooga Zoo that do not need a heat source. Their fur consists of very thick fiber.

"If you were to stick your hand through it, your fingers would go in several inches, before you actually hit skin," Laberdee adds.

Safety is a big priority for zoo workers, who work to keep the animals warm. Fifteen years ago, a heat lamp sparked a fire here. New heat lamps and security measures were put in place then, and there has not been an incident since.

Have a weather-related story idea? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.

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