Cool in the Cold

As everyone who’s stepped through slush for the past week can testify, winter is here in Chicago. And much as the city has adapted to cold temps and brisk winds, Lincoln Park Zoo has also.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that every outdoor animal at Lincoln Park Zoo has a den or shelter available as a welcome refuge from icy weather. Our animal care experts also keep a careful eye on the forecast, ensuring that subtropical white-cheeked gibbons, say, are never swinging in their outdoor den when the conditions are outside their comfort zone.

Of course, while some animals—and people—shy away from frosty weather, many of the zoo’s cold-weather species are equipped with natural insulation. Thick layers of blubber let the harbor seals and polar bear Anana swim in near-Arctic conditions. Similarly, thick coats make it easy for our Amur tigers and Bactrian camels to lounge in the snow. (We even captured a video of the camel herd lapping up this week’s snowfall.)

Bactrian camels are naturally suited to cold conditions in China and Mongolia...and Chicago

Bactrian camels are naturally suited to cold conditions in China and Mongolia...and Chicago.

An Amur tiger lounges in the snow by its exhibit window at the Kovler Lion House.

On the flip side, the zoo’s tropical habitats offer a welcome respite from anyone looking to take a break from winter. Watching the spectacled caiman or Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths soak up the sun in Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House’s Ecosystem Area is a sure way to feel warm, at least for a little while. My favorite winter getaway is the Free Flight Area at the McCormick Bird House, which enjoys tropical temperatures as sunbitterns and Inca terns stretch their wings overhead.

Winter is a perfect time to warm up with the Inca terns in the Free Flight Area of the McCormick Bird House.

Winter is a perfect time to warm up with the Inca terns in the Free Flight Area of the McCormick Bird House.

Still, that doesn’t mean the zoo lacks good reasons to head outside. We have 2 million, in fact—the lights that will start shining again this Friday at ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Charter One. The lights will glow nightly from Friday to December 23, at which point they’ll take a two-day break before shining again through January 5.

We also have the rink ready for daily Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo. If you haven’t strapped on skates for a while, the Farm-in-the-Zoo is the perfect place to get back on the ice. After all, we may not be naturally suited for cold weather like some species, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it.

Kevin Bell


Learn More

Chilling Out on Hump Day
The cold weather doesn't faze the Bactrian camels at the zoo's Antelope & Zebra Area. Winter temperatures can drop to 20 degrees below Fahrenheit in the rocky dessert terrain of this endangered species' native Central Asia! See for yourself in this video of the herd munching fresh-fallen snow on the gunnite walls of its outdoor yard.

Polar Bear Explores the Snow
As part of last year's Polar Bear Awareness Week celebration, here's a video of Anana enjoying the snow in her exhibit.

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