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At a wildlife park in Kamloops, staff are getting creative to use food and water to keep the animals cool

It didn’t take Clover long to find the frozen treat.

A few minutes earlier, Dannielle Rogers, a zookeeper at BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops, B.C., had been scattering food around the Kermode bear’s enclosure. On the menu: salmon and berries, as well as a frozen treat including layers of a fruit medley.

When it gets hot – and in Kamloops, summer temperatures are regularly in the 30s – zookeepers at BC Wildlife Park offer cooling forms of enrichment for their animals, including exposure to water, both in pools and sprinkled from above, and frozen food.

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Clover the Kermode bear discovers her treat.

The treats were prepared by summer students Morgan Bohn and Meghan Booth. The duo has a knack for building edible creations catered to an animal’s carefully monitored diet. Their cantaloupe dish for the bears is a fan favourite. “It looks like one of those fancy drinks you’d put an umbrella into,” said Ms. Rogers.

On a particularly hot and smoky day recently, when the temperature reached the high 30s, Ms. Bohn was in the facility’s food prep room, making a cantaloupe treat for the bears to enjoy. She scooped fistfuls of blueberries into each of the halves, then added peach slices, watermelon, a formulated meat mix, and a spoonful of peanut butter. This set would go to the black bears; the grizzlies prefer jam.

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Summer student Morgan Bohn prepares a cantaloupe treat for the black bears.

When the temperatures start to creep into the higher 20s and especially the 30s, zookeepers have to ensure their animals have enough water – intake goes up, even as animals’ activity level falls. While some zoo residents, like the bears, enjoy submerging themselves in water, others prefer showers.

Falconer Jamie Pearce will spray birds with a hose. They have different reactions – some move away, uninterested, while others may lean into the water and fan out their wings. You’ll know a bird has had enough, said Mr. Pearce, when they fly away. He may also spray the ceiling to create a mist that cools the room. It’s a similar technique to that used by zookeeper Ardice Fleck with the raccoons. When the day gets hot, she’ll turn on the sprinkler above their enclosure, raining water down.

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Gontran the black vulture cools off in the mist.

While it’s nice to see an animal’s personality shine, there’s no guarantee they’ll even interact with the enrichment, let alone react to it, said Tracy Reynolds, head of animal care at the BC Wildlife Park. “It’s disappointing when you make something elaborate and they don’t even look at it, and they just walk away and the thing just sits there and melts in the sun.”

Near the hottest part of the afternoon, Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Rogers drove over to Takhi and Napoleon’s enclosure. The Przewalski’s horses, native to Central Asia, joined the wildlife park a few years ago. Ms. Reynolds dropped their treats on mats near a fence. While other animals were given meat or fruit, Takhi and Napoleon got a frozen treat of shredded carrots crowned with carrot sticks. They were immediately interested and started licking and chewing the ice.

“Lots of times with hoofstock, you don’t always get a reaction,” said Ms. Reynolds, who was pleased with the horses’ behaviour. “A lot of the other animals, like raccoons, are so much fun. It’s ‘give me anything’ and it’s just all fun.”

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A raccoon plays in a tub of water in its enclosure. The wildlife park tries to accommodate all the ways animals use water to cool off, from immersion to showers.

Horses Takhi and Napoleon’s frozen treat contains carrots, in both shredded and stick form, while Quilla the porcupine got an ice cube with leaves.
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Gandalf the burrowing owl gets a light misting from falconer James Pearce. Gandalf is partly blind and has hypomelanism, a deficiency of the pigment that would otherwise makes the feathers spotted brown.

In the wild, Arctic wolves would not normally consume their prey’s blood in frozen pie form, but today, Sijja and Marraq can.
Tuk the black bear enjoys a dip while eating his snack. Today’s temperature is in the high 30s.
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Morgan Bohn and zookeeper Matt Halfacre carry some frozen willow for the barn animals. Ms. Bohn and fellow summer student Meghan Booth have grown practiced at creating cold dishes for different species, a technique zoos may have to rely on more in hotter seasons to come.

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