American Trail keepers provide the animals with enrichment—enclosures, socialization, objects, sounds, smells and other stimuli—to enhance their well-being and give them an outlet to demonstrate their species-typical behaviors. An exhibit’s design is carefully and deliberately planned to provide physically and mentally stimulating toys, activities and environments for the Zoo’s animals. Each enrichment is tailored to give an animal the opportunity to use its natural behaviors in novel and exciting ways.
Seals and seal lions live and frolic in two enormous state-of-the-art pools (the sea lions' pool holds 300,000 gallons, and the seals' pool holds 125,000 gallons of water). The pools mimic the natural coastal waters where seals and sea lions live in the wild. A wave machine keeps the water in constant motion, like the ocean, and provides sensory stimulation for the animals. Watch the sea lions propel themselves through the water from a submerged viewing window, a split-level viewing area, and an above-water viewing area. Husbandry training is an important part of sea lion and seal care at the Zoo. Keepers have trained these animals to hold still for eye exams (and to receive eye drops, if needed), dental exams, injections, blood draws, weigh-ins and radiographs. When keepers need to perform an all-over body check, they ask the sea lions to open their mouths and present body parts, such as flippers.
Using non-toxic, water-based paint, American Trail's female raven Iris creates one-of-a-kind works of art! Many of the Zoo's animals paint for enrichment because it stimulates their visual, tactile, and olfactory senses. Apart from the fun of learning something new, it helps to reinforce the trusting relationship between Iris and her keepers. Watch Iris learn how to paint in this video.
Dispersed among boulders, the landscaping for the Zoo’s two gray wolves, recreates a forest setting typical of North America. Native plants provide Crystal and Coby with enrichment, which encourages natural behaviors. Trees, grasses, and shrub shave been strategically placed throughout the exhibit. Staggered and stacked logs offer the wolves structures that they can climb upon, play on, scent mark, and survey their exhibit just as they would in the wild. The rear of the exhibit is filled with dense vegetation, enabling the wolves to spend some time away from the crowds.
Beavers fell trees for construction projects like dams and lodges. At the Zoo, keepers provide the beavers with browse (fresh tree trimmings) to eat and arrange. The lodge in the North American beaver exhibit is built of wood that the beavers chewed and placed themselves as well as permanent artificial logs. The Zoo's beavers learn behaviors that help animal care staff evaluate their health, including opening their mouths and showing their paws and bellies. American Trail keepers are training them to voluntarily sit in a crate (for any transporting they may have to do), get on a scale (for weekly weight measurements), and hold still for injections and blood draws.