Arctic foxes check out a Fraser fir  and a fruit and chow mix in their habitat during “Green Day” at the Zoo” at the Detroit Zoo Jan. 10. Home Depot stores in Southfield and Madison Heights had donated unsold Christmas trees for animal enrichment.

Arctic foxes check out a Fraser fir and a fruit and chow mix in their habitat during “Green Day” at the Zoo” at the Detroit Zoo Jan. 10. Home Depot stores in Southfield and Madison Heights had donated unsold Christmas trees for animal enrichment.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Detroit Zoo animals receive leftover Christmas trees

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published January 15, 2018

 A wolverine at the Detroit Zoo sniffs at a Fraser fir, which zookeepers had sprayed with perfume.

A wolverine at the Detroit Zoo sniffs at a Fraser fir, which zookeepers had sprayed with perfume.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 A gray wolf at the Detroit Zoo licks his chops after discovering a bone in a Fraser fir that had been placed in the wolf’s habitat.

A gray wolf at the Detroit Zoo licks his chops after discovering a bone in a Fraser fir that had been placed in the wolf’s habitat.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROYAL OAK — On Jan. 10, zookeepers at the Detroit Zoo hauled Fraser fir trees, many filled with special treats, into snow-loving animals’ habitats.

The schedule included wolves, a wolverine, arctic foxes, a polar bear and otters, and while few members of the public braved the damp, cool weather, the animals seemed to revel in it.

Elizabeth Arbaugh, the zoo’s mammal curator, said the zoo provides its inhabitants with things to stimulate them emotionally and physically every day. When seasonal opportunities arise, the zoo publicizes the events for its patrons’ pleasure.

The Fraser firs, according to a zoo press release, were donated by the Home Depot locations in Southfield and Madison Heights after the holiday season and had never been treated or decorated.

“We picked animals that are adapted and can be out in this weather,” Arbaugh said.

The gray wolves — the male Kaskapahtew (“Kaska”) and female Waziyata (“Wazi”) — received bones in their tree. Kaska laid on the snow-covered grass, gnawing his bone, and bared his teeth when Wazi meandered over.

Zookeepers sprayed a perfume that the zoo’s wolverine, Anna, is attracted to on her tree. She loped out once her tree was in place, circling it, sniffing at it and hoisting herself up onto it with her two front paws.

“The wolverine is definitely well-suited to live in (this climate),” Arbaugh said. “I don’t know if there’s any living left in Michigan. I think it’s been like 20 years since anyone has seen one in Michigan.”

While the red pandas were originally the next stop during the event, one of the red pandas was “a little under the weather,” Arbaugh said. The zoo is also in the process of expanding their home, so the polar bear became the next destination.

Nuka, the male polar bear, received the top of a tree with fish stuffed in it.

“He picked it up in his mouth, took it to the other side of his habitat and ate all of his treats,” Arbaugh said. “It was cute.”

The zoo’s three arctic foxes — their coats white for the winter, so they nearly blended in with their habitat — were chasing each other around their enclosure before zookeepers set up their tree, interspersed with a mix of fresh strawberries and “chow.”

“(The arctic foxes) are very curious, so anything new you give them tends to be stimulating and fun,” Arbaugh said.

When the time came to visit the otters, Sparky and Storm and a small group of children seemed to be entertaining each other.

Friends Kim Huddas, of Sterling Heights, and Jenni Murphy, of Roseville, stood inside the habitat, watching Murphy’s daughter, 3-year-old Bella Dietrich, race back and forth.

“She loves (the event),” Murphy said. “We have a membership, so we come all the time.”

Dietrich said that, while it was “a little bit chilly,” she was having fun with her new friends, and she could no longer chat for an interview because “I gotta find that otter!”

Throughout the next few weeks, the zoo animals that can be exposed to or digest the donated evergreen trees will receive them in their habitats, according to the release.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road in Royal Oak. For more information about the zoo, call (248) 541-5717 or visit www.detroitzoo.org.