Feeding is the most pleasurable time of the day for most animals. However many predators become overly agitated while waiting for the keeper to arrive with dinner. They will stand at a lookout point and anxiously pace. Staggering feeding times can cut down on the pacing.
Hiding fruit, chopped vegetables or meat throughout the enclosure will stimulate problem solving. We have drilled holes in logs throughout the bear habitat to hide berries. We also hide meat or treats under rocks and have smeared canned dog food or peanut butter on low hanging tree limbs.
Carcass feeding leads to increased metabolic and digestive health, oral health from the use of the teeth, gums and tongues to de-fur and sheer meat from the carcass. It also increases muscle tone from the physical demands of dragging or carrying the carcass. The social interaction during group feedings and the thought process of saving leftovers is also mentally stimulating. We have found carcass feeding to reduce conflicts in the canine packs. It provides them the regular opportunity to exercise and reinforce social hierarchy in the pack.
There are drawbacks to feeding a carcass. There is an increased health risk from the possibility of contaminated meat. There is a lack of control in regulating the amount of food consumed by any one animal. This can cause excessive weight gain or loss. There may be injuries due to fights over the carcass and increased stress through competition for food and the animal's social position. The carcass can also be infested with foreign parasites or affected by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Currently we do not know if CWD is species specific.
Our animals are on a prescribed, nutritionally balanced diet and deer or elk carcasses are used in our enrichment program only on occasion. Instead, we offer deer and elk bones, scrap meat and hides from a meat processor. They are frozen before being offered to the animals for a period of time to reduce the possibility of parasites and taken only from animals testing negative for CWD.
Please click on the thumnails to view their Enrichment photos.