Working in a Winter Wonderland
Visitors frequently ask us how the animals at Fossil Rim stay warm in the winter. With many of our species originating in Africa and warmer climates, Fossil Rim does take many precautions to help our animals withstand the Texas winters. We have a dedicated staff that works with the animals, rain or shine, to ensure that the animals are properly cared for.
Fossil Rim has a variety of species with varying housing needs. When cold weather arrives, we have a number of ways in which we can provide warmer housing options for our animals. All of our pastures have sheds in which hoofstock (antelope, deer and equids) can take cover to get out of the wind and rain. Our Animal Care Specialists put large amounts of hay across the floor of the sheds to make it warmer and offer the animals food to eat within the protected sheds.
Additionally, we have many wooded areas within Fossil Rim that offer some protection. Rhinos and giraffes have heated barns that they have access to in cold weather. Cheetahs and certain wolves have heated houses or buildings. The cranes and Attwater’s prairie-chickens (APCs) have access to sheds year-round, and in the winter the staff adds windbreaks to the North side of the enclosures. More vulnerable birds are offered heat lamps, and the APCs are given cut juniper bushes that they can hunker down in to stay warm.
We also offer some of our animals extra food when the weather is cold. This allows them to consume more calories and stay warmer. Carnivore species are fed more food and sometimes more often throughout the day. Wolves receive more whole meat as a supplement to their normal diet. With the hoofstock species, we put out extra pelleted feed and many round bales of hay.
Our staff carefully monitors the hay and strategically places hay bales in areas where the bales can be somewhat protected from rain and also serve as windbreaks that the animals can take shelter behind. The hay serves a dual purpose in acting as a windbreak and as food. Most years, Fossil Rim is able to grow and bale enough hay during the summer on our property and nearby properties to provide us with a yearlong supply of hay.
Fossil Rim’s Animal Care, Animal Health and Support Services staffs work hard year-round to ensure that our animals are well-fed and have warm places to go. The workload in the winter increases as the animals need extra food, sheds have to be hayed down, round bales need to be put out using a tractor, pipes must be insulated, water lines have to be checked for freezes, ice on water tubs must be broken, veterinary procedures still must take place, propane tanks have to be filled and roads must be safe for visitors. From dawn to dusk our staff is working hard to care for our animal collection and remain committed to our mission to conserve species in peril.
By Kristen Culp (Documents Administrator)