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D-FW zoo animals spend the week inside

FORT WORTH -- North Texas' tundralike temperatures were deemed too cold for the Texas cougar, jaguar and bald eagle this week.

Even a swan, a species native to Siberia and comfortable in cold weather, spent most of the snow days tucked indoors at the Fort Worth Zoo, where officials said animals were sheltered from prolonged frosty conditions.

"We don't risk it," said Alexis Wilson, director of communications for the zoo. "There are many animals that are native Texas animals. They are well-acclimated to the weather we have in Fort Worth, but in extreme conditions we simply err on the side of caring for the animals."

Still, a few zoo animals did step out briefly for some Super Bowl action. A week of animal predictions on ESPN's SportsNation included a Friday visit from Ali and Jack, two African penguins hatched at the zoo.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, outside Glen Rose, also made extra effort to keep animals comfortable and safe. Many were placed indoors or in heated barns for their protection. No weather-related medical issues were reported there or at the Fort Worth and Dallas zoos.

Kelley Snodgrass, director of animal care and natural resources management at Fossil Rim, said rhinos, giraffes, kudus and some birds are in heated barns. Many animals have three-sided barns in the pasture with extra hay.

"We provide a lot of feed and hay," Snodgrass said. "The carnivores get extra food -- cheetahs and wolves."

Snodgrass said they are making sure the animals have plenty of fresh water.

Some animals actually like the cold weather, said Lynn Kramer, deputy director for animal conservation and science for the Dallas Zoo and a trained veterinarian.

He said the zoo has two mountain lions from Canada that like to hang out in the snow.

"We also have African crocodiles that are still outside in their pool because we have heaters in it," he said, adding that the water stays between 66 and 75 degrees.

But elephants and giraffes have struggled with cabin fever, Kramer said. Their indoor enrichment program included bamboo twigs and leaves to chew on. The elephants can rub and scratch themselves on logs.

For entertainment, the giraffes' barn has a hanging mobile made of logs, he said.

"Some of them are getting a little stir-crazy, like kids at home," Kramer said.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

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