|Dakota is spending some time getting fresh air and enrichment during the day|
Friday, January 13, 2012
Why Doesn’t Dakota Stay Inside All Winter?
Over the years many people have asked the question of whether or not Dakota comes inside in the winter. Now that he’s been inside during his recovery we've gotten the question as to why he would live outside at all.
The simple answer is for his health and well-being. Being exposed to the sun and weather actually helps him maintain good plumage. Exposure to sun also helps him to synthesize vitamin D for his bones, muscles, and eyes and is important to his overall health.
Being outside is necessary for Dakota’s mental health as well. Because he is a Great Horned Owl, and his wild counterparts stay here all year long, they are not only used to the changing temperatures, but are designed to withstand them. Dakota has a covered nest box in his enclosure to provide shade in summer, shelter from rain, and protection from snow and cold winds in winter. He also has multiple perches of various sizes and materials around his enclosure to choose from. But he still sometimes prefers to sit on an exposed perch in all sorts of what we would consider bad weather because he can. Being outside as much as he is, his body acclimates to the change in temperature gradually. In fact, in the past, when Dakota was indoors for programs, especially in the winter, he would often get overheated if kept inside for too long.
While it will still be some time before Dakota moves back outside on a regular basis, being outdoors is good for him. Although many of us consider him a colleague, he is still a wild animal, and being so, he enjoys the variety of the weather, the amusement of watching the birds, squirrels and other animals outside his window, and having some space to himself – most of the time. The enrichment of being outside in our outdoor habitat area watching local animals-squirrel and songbird tv, "talking" with our local owls and also with our staff and volunteers who are outside often caring for patients and other permanent animals is necessary for his overall well-being.