Zoo taking precautions to protect animals from cold - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Zoo taking precautions to protect animals from cold

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

There's no doubt Old Man Winter is making his presence known in our area.

WSFA meteorologists said it's going to be bitterly cold waking up Friday morning and we'll see winds at about 15 miles an hour, making the temperatures feel even colder- around 10 degrees. The weather team encouraged folks to bundle up.

And according to local doctors that's the best advice parents can be armed with as their kids head out for what will be a brutally cold wait for the school bus.

"Anyone can get too cold too fast," said Dr. Kristi Witcher, a doctor who works in the emergency room at Baptist Medical Center East.

"Limit the time they spend in the cold as much as possible. Drop them off at the bus stop as late as possible so they don't have to sit there. Even though we're in Alabama, they need to wear gloves and hats, boots and keep as much of their bodies covered as possible. They definitely have to have a warm jacket," she added.

The dangers of hypothermia and frostbite are very real in this weather, doctors said, especially if you have to face the elements and aren't equipped.

Witcher encouraged those who work outside to pay close attention to their hands and feet and if they feel any pain or tingling to get in out of the cold.

It's something the staff at the Montgomery Zoo must also deal with as they take extra precautions to protect the animals. Heat lamps and wind breaks have been added to enclosures to shield them from the cold.

"We start bringing the animals in at 4:30 PM and everybody is locked in their enclosure, their night quarters and there's heaters, heat lamps. Everything has some kind of heat source so they are out of the weather at night time. And then in the morning, we'll give them access to their quarters or we'll just leave them up usually until the temperature is above freezing," said Animal Care Manager Lisa Matthews.

Some of the North American animals at the zoo love this time of year like bison, elk and cougars, she told WSFA. Others need extra attention. The staff constantly monitors animals' behavior to make sure they're not uncomfortable.

"There are some who could get frostbite on their ears, like our giraffes. Of course, some of our smaller monkeys could have frostbitten fingers or toes. Some of them can catch colds. Our chimpanzees can catch cold just like humans can," Matthews said. "Some animals we give the choice of whether they want go outside- if they want to come out they can, if they want to stay in the buildings they can. Some animals we don't even let them out at all.

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