Treats in store for animals, visitors at zoo's 'Howloween'

Trick-or-treaters can go on scavenger hunt to learn about wildlife, collect goodies

Trick-or-treaters can fill their bags with goodies and learn about wildlife Oct. 31, during Howloween at the Oregon Zoo. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free with zoo admission.

In keeping with the zoo's mission, Howloween aims to be educational as well as fun. Scavenger hunts and activities are themed to teach kids about animals around the world, and their habitats and adaptations. Kids can collect treats and prizes at the different stations, provided in part by FedEx Ground and Safe Kids, KIND Snacks and Glee Gum. Because our everyday actions impact wildlife, the zoo only chooses candy without palm oil, or with deforestation-free palm oil.

Throughout the day, visitors can watch the zoo's enrichment team provide animals with holiday-themed treats like jack-o'-lanterns stuffed with snacks. Enrichment items, such as a passel of pumpkins provided by Al's Garden Center, help keep the zoo's animals mentally and physically engaged.

Guests can also say happy birthday to the zoo's Amur tiger, Mikhail, born on Halloween in 1998. Mikhail, looking appropriate for the season in his customary orange and black stripes, will receive holiday-themed enrichment items designed to encourage his natural behaviors. This is especially important, keepers say, to help keep the 320-pound cat active as he ages.

"Mik's definitely getting up there in years," said animal curator Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's tiger area. "The median life expectancy for male Amur tigers is 16, and Mik's a year past that now, so he's considered elderly. But thankfully he's still healthy, and our keepers work hard to make sure he stays active and engaged."

Cutting notes that while Mikhail is doing well, his wild counterparts are imperiled by habitat loss and poaching: Fewer than 500 are believed to remain in their home range. The Amur tiger species derives its name from the Amur River, which runs through the region of southeast Russia to which this subspecies is native.