Outdoor enthusiasts, animals cope with cold weather - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Outdoor enthusiasts, animals cope with cold weather

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(01/21/13) - It seems winter has finally arrived in Mid-Michigan.

"It's windy, feels like kind of needles going in my back a little bit," said Spencer Darr, who was snowboarding at Apple Mountain in Saginaw County's Thomas Township Monday.

Despite the sometimes painful consequences, not everyone is staying inside. "Skiers, snowboarders dress for the occasion. When you go to the grocery store just get in the car throw on a coat and glove you wonder why you're cold, these people are layered. They have hats gloves, scarves, everything. They're ready for the cold weather and they're enjoying it," said Kathy Schofield, Apple Mountain's sales and marketing director.

That includes a group of kids from Freeland Sports Zone who are learning to ski or snowboard at Apple Mountain. Megan Keyser is helping supervisor. All that standing around, has her chilled. "Like ice cold. Yeah, I have a lot of layers on. Under Armour on, sweatshirt, coat. So I feel like I need another pair of gloves too, and another pair of socks."

Keyser's solution, head here when Mother Nature gets to be too much. "If I start shivering."

And we're told a second set of eyes is always watching to see if someone needs to head inside. "We get a lot of young kids out here, who are having so much fun that they forget. And oh yeah, our ski patrol, our ski instructors, our staff, everyone watches out," Schofield said.

Despite the bitter wind and below freezing temps, Darr says not much will keep him off the hill. "Basically just put on this thing, and my gloves. And that's pretty much it. I've been cold, but you just kind of stay."

Also having fun in the winter weather, some of the animals at the Children's Zoo in Saginaw.

The bobcat has a nice coat of fur to keep her warm. So do the pair of wolves. Winter is no big deal for them. But if they get a chill, they have options. "We do provide them with bedding and shelter areas out of the wind, they don't always use them," said Andrea Markiewicz, a senior zookeeper.

Their shelter, and many others, have straw. But that's not all, according to Markiewicz. "Everybody has a heat mat and a heated water dish, so their water doesn't freeze over, because that wouldn't be any good. And they all have wind break shelters that they can get out of the wind."

The Clydesdales have all that available, and their coats. But not every animal can adapt to Michigan's winter weather.

And that's why Markiewicz and the other zookeepers have an important job. "Make sure they're healthy. So in the summer it's making sure they're cool. In the winter making sure they're warm and comfortable."

Perhaps most comfortable, a reptile. "The alligator is definitely pretty toasty. It's 80 degrees in there. She's happy," Markiewicz said.

Markiewicz and the rest of the team closely track the weather all day long. They follow this list of rules to determine who stays out and who goes in.

She says the same care should be given to your animals at home. "Pay attention to the temperatures. Don't let them go outside for a long period of time if it's really cold out. They're not going to enjoy that. You wouldn't enjoy it."

Most of the items the zoo uses to keep animals warm, can be used to keep your pets safe.

For example heating mats are available at most pet stores. And straw can be purchased lots of places, including farm supply stores.

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