Winter is a Perfect Time to Visit the Central Park Zoo

When it snows in Central Park, most people think of grabbing their sleds or skis and heading to one of the many hills or fields, but did you know that the Central Park Zoo is open every day, even when it snows. It is only on a rare occasion, as when the park gets 26+ inches of snow in a 24 hour period, that it closes.

The Central Park Zoo is open during the winter months from 10am to 4:30 daily. Visitors are able to enjoy their temperate animals taking delight in their habitats after a blizzard.

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Did you know that the Snow Leopard Habitat has heated rocks for them to lay out on? They love to “pose” on them for the camera. Snow leopards are well adapted to the cold climate of their homeland and have no problem enjoying our NYC winters. They have long body hair with an under-layer of dense fur that can be up to five inches thick. Central Park Zoo’s male, Askai, has moved to another zoo on a breeding recommendation. The Central Park Zoo now has male and female three year old twins, River and Summit in one habitat and Zoe (their mother) and her two year old Malala, living in another habitat.

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Have you visited Betty and Veronica, the two 24 year old Grizzly bears whose antics have amused millions at the Bronx Zoo since 1995? They moved last winter to the Central Park Zoo, after their current habitat underwent major renovations to adapt to the grizzlys. They love the snow and are very happy to amuse kids of all ages. So while you might be shivering, these recent Manhattan transplants are blithely enjoying the arctic air. And, yes, Betty has a “blonder” head, while Veronica is much more brunette.

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Also located in the Temperate territory of the zoo are the Red Pandas, who would be found in Asia. The red pandas can usually be found up in the trees. They are agile climbers, who use their long, bushy tails for balance. Red pandas are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), in which many zoos, such as the Central Park Zoo, take part in. The zoo has two, a female named Amaya and a male named Biru.

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The Central Park Zoo maintains the largest public collection of sea ducks in North America. Included in their collection are two species of eiders: Spectacled and Pacific Common.

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The Central Park Zoo also houses Red-breasted Mergansers, Scaley Sided Mergansers, Radjah Shelducks, Plumed Whistling ducks, Harlequin ducks and Smew. No matter what the weather or the season they can be found in a few locations within Central Park.

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Located in the center of the zoo behind the Sea Lions you will see a large island surrounded by water. The habitat includes winter hot tubs, that reach the same temperature as the Japanese Macaques body temperature – 104 degrees, for their bathing pleasure. This is where the Snow Monkeys reside. A fun fact about them: They live in parts of Japan where it snows. They are the only animal other than humans and raccoons, who wash their food before they eat it. These monkeys are thought to be the inspiration behind the saying ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’.

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At the heart of the zoo, is the sea lion gang that can be seen sunning themselves or swimming amidst the Manhattan skyline all year round. The exhibit features both above and below water viewing of some of their most acrobat swimmers. Sea lions are curious and intelligent. Their training/feeding sessions help stimulate them. In the fall, the animals may eat more than usual. They’re building up insulation for the cold weather. The feeding times are Daily at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Judith Wolfe and Robyn Roth-Moise

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