Zoos are always trying to come up with new ways to enrich their animals’ lives, and entertain audiences in the process if possible. That’s why many have taken on the tradition of offering their inhabitants autumn pumpkins—be them bears, birds or snakes.
Though not every animal that gets the veg may be eager to dig in and enjoy its nutritional benefits—as the Brookfield Zoo’s african wild dogs and meerkats, Whipsnade Zoo’s intensely inquisitive otters and the London Zoo’s big cats show—that doesn’t stop most critters from figuring out a fun or clever way of using them. Even cockroaches appear to have enjoyed an engraved spectacle adorning their environment in Manitoba’s Assiniboine Park Zoo.
According to a Detroit Zoo press release, a mix of different stimulating food options are given to their animals year round, but the period around Halloween is a fun chance to use local, seasonal items like pumpkins. While some caretakers carved faces or scary scenes on their animal’s treats, others stuffed them with more species-appealing snacks.
Some Canadian facilities timed their festivities around Thanksgiving, and lots of UK zoos have already indulged their animals too, like Cornwall’s Newquay Zoo. But plenty of American zoos are waiting until a lot closer to Halloween before they unleash their pumpkins. Others have gone a step further, looking to ethically source their veggie stock, like the Oakland Zoo in California—pairing up with local farmers to give unwanted or unsold Halloween pumpkins homes in the claws, beaks and paws of their animals. Australia’s Taronga Zoo chose to take in winners from regional giant-pumpkin competitions back in August—their Asian elephant herd getting an amazing 728 kg veggie-beast to bash about.
Some zoos are capitalising on the other, spookier elements of the season, appreciating creatures of the night like bats and wolves. The Toronto zoo is hosting a Halloween Howl night to educate visitors about wolves, and Assiniboine Zoo is celebrating #batawarenessmonth right up until Halloween night itself with their Spooktacular—and offering costume wearers 25 percent off admission.
So if you haven’t checked to see if your local zoo has joined the bandwagon—what are you waiting for? Halloween is just around the corner, and as anyone who’s ever let a Jack-O-Lantern hang around past its due date knows, pumpkins can take on a whole new level of gnarliness quick.