TUTTLE, OKLAHOMA — Noontime temperature is just under 20 degrees.
There are 4 inches of snow underfoot.
Bill Meadows wears a thick coat and keeps his truck warmed up nearby, but he has 170 animals at Tiger Safari who have varying opinions on a December cold snap.
Using a warmer weather analogy zoo director Meadows says, “Par for the course, you know? In the summer time you have to worry about some of the animals getting too hot. In the winter you have to worry about some of them getting cold.”
Meadows checks on a five month old mountain lion cub.
He might have come from Florida but the cougar’s range includes Oklahoma.
He has a heated enclosure but purrs loudest in the snow.
In this weather he just wants to play.
“He looks well equipped,” remarks a visitor.
“Yes,” says Meadows. “They’re also really good hunters.”
The same goes for Bill’s Siberian Tiger named Raja.
This type of tiger has no use for the indoors in these conditions.
It’s nearly the same for two Bengal Tigers next door but they have to go inside when he wind kicks up.
“A house full of hay and they’ll be fine,” says Bill.
The cold weather story for a pair of African lions is a little different.
Bill’s female comes out into the open when she hears his voice.
The big male peeks out too but quickly heads back inside.
Bill says, “Being from Africa they don’t mind the cold but not this cold.”
Of all the exotic animals at Tiger Safari, most of them need some kind of shelter from the cold.
“When it gets below freezing,” says Bill, “the animals have to be checked on 3 times a day.”
Meadows checks on a spotted hyena named NeNe, but he’s surprisingly playful in the snow.
Then Bill checks in on his newest residents who don’t like the cold at all.
They happen to be the only pair of white handed gibbons in Oklahoma.
Bill keeps them safely inside.
They have several pieces of equipment turned on to stay warm.
Bill treats them to a few ripe bananas for quick, food energy.
Meadows says, “They have to be in this building with two or three different heaters on and a heater blanket.”
Tiger Safari’s human visitors seek shelter on the coldest of days too.
Only one visitor today. Sometimes, even a heavy coat isn’t enough.
For more information on Tiger Safari in Tuttle go to http://www.tigersafari.us