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Oct 10, 2011 8:04 PM by Matt Stafford

Food causing budget woes for the zoo

It's been a tough year for ranchers, getting hay for their animals. Drought conditions have cut down crop amounts and driven prices up. Nothing different for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo getting hay; they say this has been one of the worst years for their hay budget.

Most it is used for food, and they use plenty more for bedding; when you have animals like two Hippos who eat about a bale of hay every day, you go through it fast. When prices jump, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo really feels it.

"Some of them (hay varieties) have gone up more than $100 per ton; which might not sound like much, but when you buy 240 tons of hay a year... that adds up," says Tracy Thessing, director of animal collections for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Right now they're about $6,000 over budget; about 10 percent of their annual allotment. They say the number could be higher by the end of the year. They're blaming drought conditions across the country.

"Anything affecting human food prices also will affect our animal food prices," says Thessing; but as she points out, that's not the only problem area on the budget.

Keeping the meat eaters fed is getting pricier. That could be related to hay prices; ranchers are paying more for their hay too.

"It starts somewhere, and it's just a snowball effect; it affects anyone who's a consumer of that product," says Thessing. She says they'll adjust budgets across the zoo to make up the costs; they say taking care of the animals is the top priority.

"We have to pay the price, whatever it is," says Thessing.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of a handful across the country that isn't given any taxpayer money for operations. To make up this budget shortfall, they'll rely on people visiting the zoo and donations.

For more on the zoo, or for information on making a donation, click here.

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