Pachyderms pulverize pumpkins in prelude to 'Howloween'

October 29, 2015 - 11:38am

Zoo's famous elephant family is set to take part in annual Squishing of the Squash

Visitors can see some of the world's largest land animals demolish one of the area's largest pumpkins at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30, during the Oregon Zoo's annual Squishing of the Squash.

"Our elephant family will get a thousand-pound-plus pumpkin to stomp on, play with, munch on and maybe even roll around in," said elephant curator Bob Lee. "It will be a different location this year — the north section of our new Elephant Lands — so it will be fun to see what they do this time.."

The event is a precursor to the zoo's annual Howloween celebration, which is Oct. 31 and is free with zoo admission. On Saturday, visitors can watch the zoo's enrichment team provide animals with holiday-themed treats like jack-o'-lanterns stuffed with snacks. Meanwhile, a scavenger hunt directs trick-or-treaters to activity stations with info about animals, their habitats and adaptations. Kids can collect treats and prizes as they visit each station. 

Visitors will also have a chance to see history in the making as work advances on Elephant Lands — a sweeping expansion of the Asian elephant habitat that will quadruple the elephants' space and dramatically enhance their daily experiences. Construction was carefully sequenced to gradually expand the elephants' habitat in phases, and the entire project will be complete by the end of the year. The squash-squishing takes place in the northernmost portion of the new habitat, which opened in June.

The giant pumpkin for this year's Squishing of the Squash — a 1,100-pounder — is being provided by Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers members Larry and Christy Nelson of Albany, Ore. Additional pumpkins for the zoo's Howloween enrichment activities are provided by Al's Garden Center, with a few more big ones donated by the Nelsons and Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers. Enrichment items such as pumpkins help keep the zoo's animals mentally and physically stimulated.

Watch a video of the 2014 event: