Atascadero zoo helps animals cool off as heat wave continues

tstrickland@thetribunenews.com, acornejo@thetribunenews.comJuly 1, 2013 

Ice treats, special baths — and in some cases, air conditioning — have been helping animals at Atascadero’s Charles Paddock Zoo keep cool during the recent heat wave.

Using misters, hosing down yards and exhibits, and letting the animals have access to their inside holding areas are all part of the zoo’s typical summer routine, Animal Collections Manager Kate Capela said.

But during scorching days such as the ones the North County has experienced over the past weekend, the critters get extra-special treatment to keep them comfortable.

“We have also been offering ice, ice bottles and ice treats to many of the animals, especially the mammals,” Capela said.

Visitors may also see zoo staff watering down the alpacas, emu and Aldabra giant tortoise.

The red pandas, raccoon-sized mammals from the southern foothills of Asia’s Himalaya mountains, get air conditioning in their holding area because they don’t adapt easily to heat, Capela said.

“So they are spending a fair amount of time inside,” she added.

Elsewhere in Atascadero, the temporary cooling station at El Camino Homeless Organization at 6370 Atascadero Ave. has seen a steady stream of people looking for relief from the heat.

Open since Saturday, the free service has hosted up to 20 people per day and will remain open until the weather is cooler, volunteer Patsy Gillen said Monday.

“There’s AC, movies, food and lots of cold drinks,” Gillen added. “Anyone can come.”

With record temperatures set in Paso Robles both Saturday and Sunday, the heat wave is expected to continue with triple digits in the North County through Thursday.

On Sunday, Paso Robles reached 108 degrees, surpassing the previous record of 107 degrees Fahrenheit, set in 1996. Likewise, on Saturday Paso Robles saw 111 degrees, which broke a record temperature of 109 degrees set June 29, 1994.

On Monday afternoon, Paso Robles reached 107 degrees, tying a record that was set on July 1, 1950.

San Luis Obispo also set a new temperature record on Saturday, with temperatures reaching 102 degrees by 11 a.m. as recorded at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. The prior record was 90 degrees, set in 1996.

No patients were admitted to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo for heat-related illness, according to Shannon Downing, marking manager.

San Luis Obispo’s French Hospital Medical Center treated a couple of elderly people and a homeless person for symptoms related to heat exposure, said media relations/communications specialist Megan Maloney.

Only a few people went to the emergency room at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton for heat-related illnesses in the past week, according to Jo Taylor, director of emergency services. None of those cases was serious, she said.

Watch a fisher keep cool

Tommy the fisher chills out with some ice at Atascadero's Charles Paddock Zoo during the recent heat wave. A fisher is an animal related to the sea otter that's native to California.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939 and Tonya Strickland at 781-7858. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo and @tstrickland on Twitter.

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