Animal Enrichment Helps Fundraise for Zoo Programs
Working with four paws and a tail, some local talented artists recently debuted their paintings at Wildwood Park & Zoo. Showcasing their one-of-a-kind masterpieces were Kodiak bears Munsey and Boda, foxes Shadow and Blizzard, and cougars Star and Thunder.
“The paintings are something we’ve done here and there in the past at the zoo, moreso as enrichment,” said City of Marshfield Parks & Recreation Zookeeper Steve Burns. “Recently it’s become a way to raise money for the zoo and supplement future enrichment projects and education programs.”
As part of the silent auction at Marshfield Parks & Recreation’s “Be The Bunny” event Easter weekend, the paintings were a huge success.
“With our zoo being a small zoo, animals are often here for their entire lives,” he said. “I think because of that, people create stronger bonds with our animals and enjoy being able to have something unique from them.”
Funds raised from painting sales support future enrichment programs and care for the animals, as well as events and education programs.
Though a great fundraiser for the zoo, the paintings are first and foremost an enrichment
tool for the animals. In a zoo environment, enrichment is crucial to an animal’s happiness and mental development. Being notably astute, the Kodiak bears especially enjoy mental challenges.
“Bears are incredibly smart and engaging,” said Burns. “Painting is giving them a different problem to solve.”
Using a device made by zoo staff especially for the larger animals, Munsey and Boda create paintings by manipulating a brush connected to PVC pipe.
The foxes, which enjoy rolling in things that smell, create “footprint art,” and play in the paint to create unique smudges.
Paint is non-toxic and washable, posing no threat to the animal if ingested or on fur (though, to avoid any scares, staff avoid offering the color red if the animal will be in contact with the paint).
On the back of the finished canvas, zoo staff write the name of the animal and the creation date. So far, the bears, cougars, and foxes have given it a try, revealing that some animals are more artistic than others.
“I think Munsey is most interested in it. He seems really engaged. He’s an artiste!” said Burns. “We tried painting with the lynx, but they are a little standoffish. Our bobcat is pretty social, so I think we’ll try him in the future.”
Burns and staff plan to develop an online gallery in which to display more animal-created art, and hope to sell more paintings at future events.
“It’s something that we’ll certainly continue to do,” said Burns. “The Zoological Society has been a great avenue for this in the past. I think we’ll probably try to create some more for the Zoofest, if the Zoo Society decides that’s something that they want to have at their event.”