Blizzard preparations are underway at Mystic Aquarium

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MYSTIC — While local grocery stores will be emptied of bread and milk in preparation of the impending blizzard, extensive planning is underway at Mystic Aquarium, as well.

From preparing snow removal equipment to prepping diets and scheduling staff, the teams at Mystic are hard at work behind the scenes to ensure that staff and animal welfare is maintained should the region experience extreme weather as predicted.

“Based on the forecasted weather, our teams will be prepared,” said Dr. Allison Tuttle, vice president of biological programs in a statement released Monday afternoon. “This entails everything from pre-prepping fish and other food items for the animals, organizing any required vitamins and medications, scheduling staff, arranging car pools and gathering supplies to accommodate overnight staffing.”

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During a typical weather event, the animal care professionals will closely monitor temperatures and weather to ensure the wellbeing of all animals, said Tuttle.

With the expected low temperatures and high winds, the African penguins, as a warm climate species, will be moved inside to ensure their safety. Similarly, the stingrays from the Ray Touch exhibit will be moved inside. Northern fur seal Ziggy Star will take shelter in pools located indoors.

While the staff will take extra precautions, including snow removal and wearing of protective clothing, feeding and enrichment sessions for the cold climate species like the beluga whales, Stellar sea lions and harbor seals will go on as scheduled at outdoor exhibits.

“We work a buddy system during direct animal care especially during high winds and potentially slippery conditions on exhibit to ensure the safety of our animal care teams,” said Tuttle in the statement.

Should conditions force the closure of the Aquarium, a staff of animal care specialists will be on site overnight to feed and care for the animals.

“It’s often like a slumber party,” said Tuttle.

Facilities will join animal care specialists at all hours to help with snow removal to keep exhibits and other areas passable and otherwise help manage critical needs.

Following any storms, the staff is equally as busy. Getting animals that were moved back on exhibit and snow removal become the focal point of Facilities’ operations. While the Aquarium’s Water Quality lab tests the water at exhibits on a daily basis, specific emphasis is placed on outdoor exhibits following storms to check salinity, etc.

“Animal care never gets a day off,” said Tuttle. “Mystic Aquarium’s dedicated Maintenance and Facilities team and our animal care professionals give a 110 perecnt no matter what the weather.”