The cost of full bellies at the Dakota Zoo
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The Dakota Zoo is working on limited hours during the winter season, but the staff are still hard at work fulltime keeping animals fed. The costs of keeping bellies full doesn’t come cheap.
As winter has settled in, you might think the animals slow down and sleep away the days until spring arrives. But many animals are hungry and very active during the winter months, and cold weather means a bigger appetite. Inflated costs of hay due to drought and other costs to produce it only make mealtime more expensive.
“This last year we saw quite a decrease with the wetter winter and wetter spring, but the price didn’t come all the way down because of the increase in diesel and the cost of them putting up hay,” said Animal Staff Supervisor at Dakota Zoo, Greg Schmidt.
Zoo management says the early and tough winter increased costs in the last quarter of 2022 by $20,000 compared to the last quarter of 2021. Meat eaters also cost the zoo more money, but they aren’t feeling it in the same way humans are when we pick out sirloins.
“Yes, we have seen the price of meat and fish go up, but not like it has in the grocery store. We don’t use human grade food, so it’s inspected but at a different level, so the cost isn’t as high for the producers,” said Schmidt.
The bears will come out to enjoy the snow but have since slowed into hibernation. Despite rising costs or nearly everything, they remain some of the pickiest of eaters.
“In the wintertime our bears, because they’re bears and they kind of start slowing down and getting sleepier and less hungry they get pretty picky about the food that they eat,” said Carnivore Zookeeper at Dakota Zoo, Molly Schneider.
The hearts of zookeepers always go out to the animals they care for to make sure they keep the bellies of their fur bearing friends full.
“We just want to give them the best lives and make them really happy,” said Schneider.
Greg Schmidt says they should have enough hay to feed all the animals until the first cut of hay this spring. They are hoping a strong crowd at the zoo this summer will help make up some of the extra costs of hay, meat and fish. The Dakota Zoo is currently open Friday through Sunday from 1 - 5 pm, they also just launched a TikTok account where they introduce new animals and show you what days look like while working at the zoo. You can catch them at Dakota Zoo Crew.
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