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Growing Gourds for Animals

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Growing Gourds for Animals
October 24, 2022

It’s one of the most festive events of the year — Pumpkin Chomp & Stomp at Northwest Trek. Guests can see Halloween decorations throughout the wildlife park, take a Haunted Hike, and watch animals play with PLENTY of pumpkins.

The horticulture team at Northwest Trek grows many of the pumpkins. This year, they produced about 30 pumpkins and 400 various hybrid gourds.

Horticulturist Jake shows off pumpkins and gourds that were grown this year.

“Every year, we give pumpkins to our animals as part of the Pumpkin Chomp & Stomp event,” horticulturist Jake explained. “But a few years ago, I noticed that some of the carving pumpkins weren’t very nutritious.”

In 2018, Jake researched pumpkin and squash varieties on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, picking those with plenty of nutrients and sugar for taste. He elicited the help of elementary students at Weyerhaeuser Elementary in Eatonville and teen volunteers from the Bush School in Seattle to plant the seeds and prep a pumpkin patch.

“There were about 150 pumpkins just that first year!” said Jake.

pumpkins and gourdsThere was a variety, too. Big orange Cinderellas, pale white Caspers, small pear-shaped yellow squash, striped-green minis, and an orange/yellow hybrid filled the garden.

In the years since, pumpkins and gourds have seeded themselves from the compost, once again providing no-cost nourishment and enjoyment to many animals.

“We simply weeded the pumpkin garden bed once, fertilized it with organic material, set up sprinklers on timers, and watched the pumpkins grow,” explained Jake.

“It was a community effort that continues to bring enrichment and nutrition to our animals yearly,” said Jake.

Many animals, including grizzly bears, gray wolves, and river otters, will enjoy the pumpkins this year.

SEE THEM: Animals get pumpkins at Pumpkin Chomp & Stomp on October 29 and 30 from 9:30 am-3 pm.