Dakota Zoo staff help animals through the cold

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BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota winters: you're either built to handle them or you're an alligator.

"Even in Florida, where it gets cold, they're going to be at the bottom of a pond somewhere during the cold season. Here, we just move them into an indoor area that's heated and frankly, they're spoiled. Alligators have the best spot in the zoo,” said Terry Lincoln, Dakota Zoo Director.

Reptiles, birds and primates, like spider monkeys, aren't built to handle the cold. So they're pampered inside heated buildings. Bison and cattle, brave the cold. But in order to do that, their diets have to be right.

"They're going to eat about double on these cold days of what they normally would in the summertime. And so they're utilizing that food not only to keep their bodies alive but as a heat source as well,” said Lincoln.

About 90 percent of the outside animals stay outside. That means a lot of cold shifts for Vanessa Schaible.

"I'd be lying if I said it was easy every day, especially with these temperatures. Usually a good saying around here is, 'well, it's been worse,'” said Schaible.

But that means more comfort for the animals, inside and out. When the temperature drops below the zero degree mark, Lincoln says it’s most likely the zoo will be closed.