As Maritimers dig out from the latest blast of winter, staff at Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton are also working hard to ensure the rare and exotic animals are prepared for the elements.

Deep snow also presents dangers to animals and challenges for the people who look after them. As snow plows dig out homes and businesses in Moncton’s blanketed downtown, zoo staff have been braving the blizzard to tend to more than 600 animals.

“It’ll take them two or three hours just to make a dent in the snow, to get the area opened up for keepers when they come in so they can get right to work with the animals,” says Bruce Dougan, manager at the Magnetic Hill Zoo.

Animals usually roam from indoors to outdoors in their enclosures, but must be kept inside during ice storms and heavy snowfall.

“If you’ve got a 12-foot fence and a six foot snowdrift, well, you have a six foot fence,” says zookeeper James Cann.

Keeping the animals inside also protects them from trees that could snap from the weight of snow or ice.

The zoo saw significant damage to trees during a recent ice storm, with no injuries to animals.

Ahead of a storm, zookeepers will follow a checklist to prepare every group of animals here, which includes determining how cold it can get before they must be kept inside.

They also evaluate incoming snowfall and wind speed, putting out extra bedding and food as needed. But once their charges are given the go-ahead, they’re free to enjoy the snow day.

“They flop down and roll around in the snow! Anything that likes to bound, run and jump, the snow makes things that much more fun,” says Cann.

“It’s much healthier for the animals if they can be in cooler temperatures, there’s no bacteria or viruses in cold temperatures outside, and their coats get much thicker and heavier,” says Dougan.

While tigers are dashing through the snow, zookeepers are still keeping a keen eye on the weather ahead, ready to grab the shovels to dig out again.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.