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Bobcatalog 2014

3650 runs with the elephants at zoo

A new Bobcat utility vehicle plays an integral role in the Oregon Zoo’s expansion of a world-class elephant exhibit

Bob Lee, curator at the Oregon Zoo

Bob Lee, curator at the Oregon Zoo

Caring for the elephant herd at the Oregon Zoo brings plenty of joy and satisfaction to curator Bob Lee and the staff. There’s also some drudgery — using wheelbarrows to haul feed and clean up around the elephants’ one-and-a-half acre home.

With “Elephant Lands” in the process of expanding to six acres (completion scheduled for 2015), the wheelbarrows have been replaced by a new Bobcat® 3650 utility vehicle (UTV). “The utility vehicle reduces backbreaking labor, improves our efficiency and allows us to provide better care for the animals,” Lee says. “In the short term, it will also help the staff get around the construction project.”

The hydrostatic-drive 3650 features the Multi-Attachment X-Change system. For the Oregon Zoo, that means a bucket on the front to scoop up manure, while the 1,250-pound-capacity cargo box delivers a variety of feedstuffs to the elephant herd.

“We can clean the grounds and distribute fresh food all in one trip,” Lee says. “It makes it much easier to spread their food around the site so the elephants have to forage for it just like they would in the wild. The food — tree branches, prairie hay, fruits and vegetables — is placed in containers and hidden throughout the facility. Imagine having to do that over six acres using wheelbarrows.”

With a max speed of 30 mph and, according to Lee, very good off-road capabilities, the UTV has been transporting staff members throughout the rugged construction zone. “We just put it in four-wheel drive and go anywhere around the facility,” he says. If the rear wheels begin to lose traction, the front wheels engage to power the UTV through difficult terrain.

3650 utility vehicle performs chores at the Oregon Zoo

3650 utility vehicle performs chores at the Oregon Zoo

Planning for the new $53 million elephant area began in 2008 when the zoo staff surveyed the best elephant habitats in the world. Currently home to eight of the largest land animals, the expanded facility will include rolling meadows, 4 feet of sand flooring, plenty of trees, hilly corridors, shade structures, 20 automatic feeding stations, mud wallows, pools and elephant-controlled showers. The animals will have the freedom to be active throughout the day and to choose when and where they want to go and who they want to spend time with. It’s expected they will forage for food and water 14 to 16 hours a day.

“That scenario will certainly keep the staff busy,” Lee says. “We will be using the 3650 every day.”

The Bobcat UTV was selected after the zoo compared several different brands. “We decided the Bobcat UTV fit our needs the best,” Lee says. “The fact that it is a solid, quality piece of equipment stood out, and that it is very easy to operate. Plus, Bobcat West is a good dealer.”

The 64-acre zoo, which averages around 1.6 million visitors a year, is located two miles southwest of downtown Portland inside Washington Park.

“We’ve had more elephant births here than at any zoo in North America,” Lee says. “Packy, one of the largest recorded male Asian elephants at 12,500 pounds, was the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. He’s 51 years old now.

“Our long tradition of advancing the welfare of Asian elephants will continue to grow as we move into the new, much larger facility. The 3650 utility vehicle will allow us to do even more for the herd,” Lee concludes.