BILLINGS — The Halloween holiday has come and gone, so what happens to all those pumpkins sold at the grocery store?
It turns out, many are donated to animals at ZooMontana.
“They enjoy interacting with different things, just like any other animal does,” said Jeff Ewelt, the executive director of ZooMontana on Thursday.
Even birds of prey like to play sometimes, and this time of year brings in a ton of toys and treats for the animals at the zoo.
“We get hundreds if not thousands of pumpkins every year,” Ewelt said.
Pumpkins that aren’t sold at grocery stores like Albertsons and Walmart are donated to the zoo each year.
“The biggest reason is for enrichment, which basically means they’re toys for animals,” said Ewelt.
The pumpkins are used to keep the animals mentally stimulated. The eagles use them as toys.
“They’re going to grab it with their talons, kind of move it around, and kind of play with it a bit,” Ewelt said.
So do the bears, although that toy doubles as a snack.
“We’ll actually fill that pumpkin with nuts and honey, things of that matter, so the bears can smell it and that entices them to basically destroy the pumpkin to get to that good stuff,” said Ewelt.
And if you’re looking for gourds for your own animals, the Billings Food Bank has got you covered. Eleven tons of pumpkins were donated there this season.
“This year we’re going to give them to anybody that’s got animals, or wild animals that they’re feeding,” said Sheryle Shandy, the executive director of the Billings Food Bank.
One woman picked up an entire pallet this Thursday.
“She has goats, and she has lambs, and she’s got pigs, and she’s got cattle, and God knows what else she’s got but they’ll be eating good for a couple of meals,” Shandy said.
ZooMontana is no longer accepting pumpkin donations but the Billings Food Bank still is.