Shifting Seasons

The past couple days haven’t confirmed it, but it is fall at Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s a great time to walk and take note of the changes in the zoo landscape—and animals.

Zoo grounds are alive in natural colors right now. Nature Boardwalk and the Main Mall offer some of the best fall views, but any corner can be alive with a tree displaying red, yellow or orange.

As the trees get ready to give up their leaves, Lincoln Park Zoo’s gardeners are busy planting for the future. This week I was pleased to see the 25 new black oaks and five jack pines planted in the southeast corner of Nature Boardwalk.

These hardy native trees are anchoring a developing black oak savanna near the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. This sand dune ecosystem will offer a new habitat for native animals, sheltering birds, moths and butterflies. Volunteer gardeners will seed the slopes with grasses and wildflowers, offering a foothold for a range of species.

Gardeners aren’t the only ones working on the landscape. We also have crews busy stringing lights through the trees for this year’s ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Charter One. When the switch is thrown November 23, more than 2 million lights will dazzle visitors to this free holiday celebration.

Animals are busy getting ready for winter as well. At the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, the black bears are starting to receive special seasonal diets. While these omnivores don’t hibernate at the zoo, they do experience a natural metabolic slowdown—and a resulting shift in their portion sizes.

Other species are busy growing winter coats to get ready for chilly weather. The Bactrian camels are especially notable for their thick fur—although you never really realize how thick it is until they shed it in spring!

Bactrian camels are growing their winter coats under fall foliage at the Antelope & Zebra Area.

Bactrian camels are growing their winter coats under fall foliage at the Antelope & Zebra Area.

Fall displays won’t be at the zoo much longer. Come by to enjoy them while they’re still here!

Kevin Bell

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