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Animals need enrichment, too!

by Brooke Hilger, Naturalist and Animal Care Specialist

Caring for the animals here at Quarry Hill is much more than just feeding and cleaning. Our animals are hardworking educational animals, so careful attention to their holistic needs is important. 

All of our animals have spent the last six months acclimating to their new habitats installed during our recent renovation. We’ve watched them carefully for changes in behavior or other signs of stress. Everyone seems to have settled in well.

This fall we decided to try something new. As the leaves began to change, so did the interior of many of our habitats. We wanted to share the beautiful colors with the snakes, frogs, toads, slugs, millipedes, salamanders, and even the tarantula. Not only did this provide spectacular visuals for our visitors, but it also provided environmental enrichment for our animals. Environmental Enrichment (also referred to as behavioral enrichment) seeks to enhance the quality of captive animal care by identifying and providing environmental stimuli that the animal may encounter if they were in the wild. This benefits both the physical and psychological needs of the animal. Adding leaves to our animal’s habitats encouraged them to engage in natural behaviors and we did observe a difference in their activities. The animals loved nestling in the leaves and moving about them. One of our newly hatched baby fox snakes went from hiding in his rock house all day to freely exploring his newly upgraded leaf enclosure.

As fall has turned to winter, we’ve switched out the leaves for evergreen bows which provide new textures, scents, and the opportunity to climb. Stop by and observe the animals in their habitats. Make a few mental notes and compare with the next time you visit. The animals provide an ever changing and interesting experience!