It’s a winter wonderland for animals at the local wildlife park.
The Chippewa Wildlife Exhibit opened their gates to the public on Saturday, a rarity for winter months, allowing people to observe the assortment of Northern animals in their snowy habitats.
Lorraine Lortie-Krawczuk, president of Friends of Chippewa, is hopeful a successful Family Day long weekend will lead to permanent winter activities in the park.
“We think opening the park in the winter is a fantastic idea and we would like to see that idea expanded upon,” she said. “So far we’ve had lots of people through so we think the public is supportive of that idea too.”
Almost every visitor had a different highlight, including caribou, elk, timberwolves, foxes and the owls.
The weekend allows the animals a chance to be seen in a different light. Instead of seeking shade and being lethargic on hot days, many of the animals showed off different cold-weather adaptations and were prominent in the exhibits.
“Their coats are big and full and they’re a lot more active in the winter,” Lortie-Krawczuk said. “In the summer they’re a little lazier and (Saturday) we’ve had people going through and finding nearly every animal on the list.”
Many of the visitors to the park through the first hour were families with young children and grandparents.
One of those enjoying a family outing was Amanda Hosanna, who brought her young daughter Hadley.
“It was nice. It was neat seeing the animals in the snow,” she said. “I thought (Hadley) would enjoy seeing the animals and it would be something fun to do.”
The special opening also allowed visitors who hadn’t previously been to the park an opportunity to get acquainted with the attractions.
“I love animals and I’ve never been to Chippewa zoo,” said Emese Boyko.
Lortie-Krawczuk said the organization is interested in hearing feedback from the public to determine other activities that could be planned.
Both Hosanna and Boyko said they would support seeing the park open more during winter months.
The park will be open again on Sunday from 11 a.m. until the gates close at 3 p.m. Admission is free of charge but donations are encouraged.
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