Merced zoo animals built for heat, but keepers keep them comfortable – Merced Sun-Star

The Merced Applegate Zoo animals don’t have the pleasure of air conditioning to keep them cool later this week when temperatures are expected to hit the upper 90s, according to weather forecasts.

But most of them don’t overheat, Applegate Zookeeper Josh Moreno said, because most of them are native species built for the Central Valley heat.

“They are used to the summer heat,” Moreno said. “When they want to cool, they find the shadiest part (of their enclosure) and take a nap.”

The only non-native species housed in the zoo are the Capuchin monkeys, Moreno said.

Capuchin monkeys hail from Central and South America, so the heat isn’t much of an issue. And the zoo has a den area that can help keep them cool, Moreno said.

While the federal Animal Welfare Act doesn’t lay out specific handling procedures for animals in hot weather, Applegate Zoo is routinely inspected by oversight agencies with no issues, Moreno said.

“If we had a polar bear, it might be different,” Moreno said.

But while most of the animals can handle the heat, the zoo still has ways to make them more comfortable.

“We give some of them pools,” Moreno said. “Also, on super hot days, we give them frozen water bottles.”

Zoo staff sometimes mixes in food into the frozen bottles to give the animals a treat.

On Saturday, Moreno tossed treats in a pool for the zoo’s racoons. Whenever they weren’t reaching beyond a cage to grab the source of the treats, the racoons were frolicking in the pool.

Moreno showered water through a hose for the emus in the zoo. They usually like shaking their feathers in the water stream, he said.

The alpacas also gravitated to the water shower to keep cool, while their neighbors, the goats, shifted to the other side of the enclosure.

Some animals at the zoo, such as mountain lion Mac, don’t care for waterworks.

“We fill up the pool, but he uses it as a toilet every day,” Moreno said.

The heat can have other effects too, Moreno said.

Honey, a female deer, recently has been trying to display dominance, sometimes attempting to kick zoo workers. Moreno thinks it could be a hormonal reaction to the heat.

But overall, it’s nothing the zoo staff can’t handle, he said.

Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562