With under two weeks until Christmas, staff at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park are as busy as Santa’s elves creating unique holiday gifts for the animals.
The weekend after Christmas, Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, is “Winter Wildland” at Northwest Trek. At the annual event, animals will be given their holiday-themed treats and gifts, known as “enrichments.” Enrichments are created to challenge animals’ brains and bodies, providing them with the environmental stimuli necessary for their well-being.
“During Winter Wildland, our keepers create festive themed enrichments that are made from materials that our animals do not have the chance to interact with regularly,” said Miranda Mauck, an animal keeper at Northwest Trek. “This creates an engaging opportunity for both park visitors and the animals.”
Choosing what to make
There’s a lot of thought, and joy, that goes into creating the holiday treats. First and foremost, safety for the animals is considered. After that, the team creates items that are new to the animals so they’ll be stimulated and more likely to interact with them.
“Since this is an annual event, our staff is challenged with crafting new ideas each season to keep the enrichment opportunities fresh for both the animals and guests,” said Mauck.
While the team painted, glued and crafted away- they also listened to holiday music with the Yule log playing in the background.
“Our third and final rule is to let the creative juices flow and get into the holiday spirit,” said Mauck.
At this year’s Winter Wildland, animals will get paper link chains, cardboard fire places, gingerbread houses and wrapped presents. An animal favorite every year at Winter Wildland are decorated fir and pine trees, graciously donated to the park by Cox Christmas Tree Farm.
“Our animals enjoy picking off the festive decorations and rubbing in the fresh scent of the tree branches,” said Mauck.
Yummy holiday goodies
The animals will also receive special holiday treats made by their keepers. The wolves, bears and small wetland mammals will be given fruit ornaments cut into the shapes of gingerbread people, stockings and stars. The beavers will be given their vegetation frozen inside of a giant ice cube while the otters will get jello-flavored ice balls. The cougar, lynx and bobcats will get some of their favorites as well: goat milk popsicles and a little whipped cream.
Come out and see the animals open and enjoy their gifts at any of Northwest Trek’s keeper chats.
Here’s the schedule:
Saturday, Dec. 28
• 11:30 a.m. Badger
• 1 p.m. Grizzly bear
• 2:30 p.m. Cougar
Sunday, Dec. 29
• 11:30 a.m. Snowy owl
• 1:30 p.m. Raccoon
• 2:30 p.m. Gray wolf