Today was a chilly autumn Sunday. Many parts of the Inland Northwest received their first snowfall last night, and much of the Cascades was covered in a dusting of white powder. Down here in the canyon, the weather was damp and cool and the skies were gray.
The chimps were slow to perk up this morning and seemed a bit groggy, making me think that they might spend the whole day napping and grooming in the Playroom. I watched Burrito for a bit before breakfast; he had a difficult time keeping his eyes open as he sat on one of the benches, and it made me smile. He lazily rolled over and drifted off several times, only regaining his alertness each time he heard promising sounds from the kitchen. It felt oddly familiar.
Negra even stopped by to participate in a quick session of grooming, but Burrito only gave her a few minutes of attention before redirecting his gaze out the window and returning to his solitude.
Everything changed when we walked around the building to open the door to Young’s Hill. Burrito and the others immediately got excited. His sideburns stood on end and his demeanor changed completely.
Lately, the seasonal shift has not deterred the Seven from enjoying Young’s Hill. Instead, they seem to relish the outdoors even more now that the weather is gloomy and wet. After being here for over a decade, the Seven are true residents of the Pacific Northwest and seem to embrace the mild temperatures of spring and fall. As I recently overheard one Washingtonian say, “I’ll pass on snow and heat, but I’ll hike in the rain all day.”
In true Northwest fashion, the Seven set out into the wilderness of Young’s Hill. Burrito led the way.
We have been excited to let the chimps go outside for the past few days because we just completed a modest expansion of the Young’s Hill enclosure. J.B. led the extension of the electric fencing downhill so that the perimeter now links up to the end of the shiny new chute (and the recently-constructed wing that houses Willy B, Mave and Honey B). We will soon be updating our followers about the new three and their gradual introduction to the outdoors, but for now the Seven long-time residents are exploring the additional space and using it to get a better view of their new surroundings
Today, Missy and Burrito each spent some time in front of the steel gateway leading into the chute. Burrito displayed and Missy even attempted to open the hydraulic door to crawl inside. Both seemed to be eager to get inside the building and come face-to-face with their new neighbors. (Fortunately for us, the doors are sturdy and didn’t budge in either scenario.)
Back in the Chimp House, the new arrivals (“The Californians”?) spent most of the day playing and lounging but immediately peered out of their bedrooms each time that one of the seven walked by. Willy B seemed most interested in Jamie and her foraging skills, while Mave tried to pant at Burrito through the sealed window. Honey B was more focused on the caregivers and kept nodding at us and soliciting attention as we completed tasks nearby.
It’s always interesting to see how quickly chimpanzees can alter their mood, thereby exhibiting a completely different set of behaviors. It still amazes me to see all ten of them snoozing in various corners of the Chimp House then suddenly hear a thunderstorm of pant-hoots, drumming and screams resonating throughout the building.
Even as the mornings get colder and the chimps spend more time in their overnight nests, it’s reassuring to see that they can still make a little excitement for themselves on a gloomy autumn day.