What’s for lunch?

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Shubie Shorts, By Theresa Adams

Feeding time is kept low key at the wildlife park

Shubenacadie Sam always eats his melon first.

One of the most frequently asked questions at the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park is when and what are the animals fed?

Feeding time here at the park is a low-key affair. If you’ve been to the park, you may know that many of the animals recognize the sound of the zero emission electric truck used in meal delivery, but lunchtime itself isn’t something the animals or we make a fuss about.

The meals, known as diets, are prepared fresh each day onsite. There’s a staff member dedicated solely to diet preparation who works in the diet building (kitchen), closely following health and safety protocols related to food handling. A zoological nutritionist regularly reviews the diet plans and everything is carefully measured and weighed to ensure accuracy, although adjustments can be made depending on an individual animal’s requirements.

Animals generally fall into one of three categories: herbivores (plant and grain eaters), carnivores (meat eaters) and omnivores (plant, grain or meat eaters). For example, a deer is an herbivore, a raccoon is an omnivore and a cougar is a carnivore.

A staff member delivers the day’s diets, removes the soiled dishes from the day before and ensures all animals have fresh water. The herbivores are fed first to avoid contaminating their food with meat. After the first round of feeding and dish washing has been completed, the omnivores and carnivores get their turn. 

Herbivores and omnivores eat their fruits and veggies with the skins on, but chopped or shredded for easy consumption. The carnivores aren’t fed live prey, but they’re regularly given raw meats with the fur, feathers and bones intact. The carnivore diets are also chopped or ground into manageable pieces. Including the bones, innards and rinds of the items the animals eat helps keep the diet as natural as possible; any supplements the animal needs, but doesn’t receive in their food, are added when the diet is prepared.

Attendants are more than waiters; they also monitor and record the amount of food consumed. They also inspect the animals visually and note any uncharacteristic behaviour or physical changes. These observations are recorded daily and any concerns are addressed quickly. A change in an animal’s food consumption can be an early indicator of a health concern. 

Diets can change with each season. Some animals require more calories at different times of the year. In the winter, grazing animals aren’t going to find a lot of grass, so they require more from their diet than in the spring and summer when grazing is abundant. Increased calories are required for pregnant and nursing mammals, as well.  

Do animals have favourite foods is another question we get asked from time to time. I can only speak for Shubenacadie Sam and say that he eats his melon first!

Check out our website for details on our upcoming summer events: http://wildlifepark.novascotia.ca/. We’re on Facebook and Sam is also on Twitter @shubenacadiesam.

Theresa Adams is the assistant education coordinator for the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park.

Geographic location: Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park

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