Kids make enrichment for lynx at N.Y. facility
NOTE: The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park is not currently listed as accredited on the AZA website.
Zoo lynxes’ noses get workout
By SARAH HAASE
TIMES STAFF WRITER
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17, 2010
Chayne and Scruffy, a pair of Canada lynxes at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park, were treated Saturday to a tasty treasure hunt, thanks to some local children who hid boxes filled with meat, catnip and other odorous treats.
During a morning lynx enrichment program, Colleen B. Bernard, education coordinator for the zoo, helped visitors get up close and personal with the lynxes — animals that resemble a bobcat or an oversized house cat.
“They may look cute and cuddly, but they aren’t the friendliest of creatures,” Ms. Bernard said. “They’re still very dangerous.”
Ms. Bernard helped nearly a dozen children fill boxes with pieces of meat, catnip, oregano, rosemary and pig bedding — all items that help stimulate the cats in captivity. Nicholas J. Vernsey, 5, already had seen a lynx and filled his box with catnip and meat.
“They’re not very much like my wrestling cats at home,” Nicholas said.
The boxes are fun for kids to make and even more fun for the animals receiving them, Ms. Bernard said.
“These treats will get them going so they can act on some of their natural instincts, like stalking and hunting,” she said. “They love different smells.”
L. Tristan Baez, 10, passed up an ice fishing trip with his family to come to the zoo with his grandmother, Nancy G. Loren.
“I filled my box with meat, pig hay, oregano and catnip,” Tristan said. “I want to watch them find my box.”
Ms. Bernard led the group into the lynxes’ vacant habitat, where the children took about 20 minutes to hide boxes, sprinkle oregano and spray Passion Dance, an old bottle of donated perfume.
“There will be a lot for them to explore out here,” Ms. Bernard said.
“All the things we are leaving, and even the scent of each person, will keep them busy all day.”
In addition to the variety of scents and special treats, the lynxes also were left a dead hamster and chick tied to a rope for additional stimulation.
When the lynxes were let into their habitat, Scruffy, the older of the two, headed right for a pile of pig hay. He spent most of his time rolling around and sniffing, while Chayne darted around the enclosure, furiously sniffing everything she could.
Brady A. Miller, 12, said he put his box under one of the overturned tree stumps. He watched intently as Chayne found his box and played with it before tearing it open and eating its contents.
When finished with that box, Chayne found the dangling hamster and had a go at that, while Scruffy remained enthralled with his patch of pig hay.
“It’s a little overwhelming for the animals right now,” Ms. Bernard said. “They’ll spend the rest of the day exploring their homes and all the different scents.”
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org