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It's not Halloween without some zoo animals smashing pumpkins

A polar bear eats a pumpkin in the zoo in Hanover, Germany, 26 October 2017. Pumpkins are a source of enrichment for the animals and a way to draw visitors to the zoos.
Hauke-Christian Dittrich
picture alliance via Getty Image
A polar bear eats a pumpkin in the zoo in Hanover, Germany, 26 October 2017. Pumpkins are a source of enrichment for the animals and a way to draw visitors to the zoos.

Halloween is only three days away.

It's not just a holiday that teaches generations of kids to barter through candy. It's also a terrible time to be a pumpkin.

Even zoo animals get in on the pumpkin-destroying fun around Halloween, eating and stomping on the gourds as zoos around the country celebrate the season.

Human teenagers who like to smash pumpkins are not alone: Elephants get a kick out of it as well, as this video from the Oregon Zoo shows.

Every year the zoo holds a "Squishing of the Squash" event, when their pachyderm residents squash huge, prize-winning pumpkins — this year they used one that was a whopping 650 pounds.

In fact, lots of animals at the Oregon Zoo got in on the pumpkin celebrations this year, including sea otters, bears and tortoises.

The pumpkins aren't just a seasonal treat. They also can be a source of enrichment for the animals and a way to draw visitors to the zoos.

The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago gives pumpkins to "physically and mentally stimulate the animals" with items they don't regularly see, the zoo shared in a news release.

The practice can also support sustainability. Oakland Zoo uses donations of lumpy or unsold pumpkins from local pumpkin patches for the animals to enjoy.

"Most Halloween pumpkins — 1.3 billion pounds, in fact — end up in the landfill where they generate greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming," noted Amy Gotliffe, the director of conservation at Oakland Zoo.

The zoo's recommendation: Cook up the leftover gourds or donate them to zoo animals instead.

Pumpkins are fine for many animals to eat. They're even full of fiber and beneficial nutrients, which is why some people use them to soothe pets with upset stomachs.

The British Isles' Jersey Zoo provided double the Halloween imagery when it shared this video of a pair of fruit bats chomping away at some pumpkin.

If all this pumpkin eating got you into the holiday spirit, we recommend these recipes from WBUR including roasted pumpkin with a ginger-miso broth.

And if it was the pumpkin-smashing that interested you, we recommend this.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nell Clark is an editor at Morning Edition and a writer for NPR's Live Blog. She pitches stories, edits interviews and reports breaking news. She started in radio at campus station WVFS at Florida State University, then covered climate change and the aftermath of Hurricane Michael for WFSU in Tallahassee, Fla. She joined NPR in 2019 as an intern at Weekend All Things Considered. She is proud to be a member of NPR's Peer-to-Peer Trauma Support Team, a network of staff trained to support colleagues dealing with trauma at work. Before NPR, she worked as a counselor at a sailing summer camp and as a researcher in a deep-sea genetics lab.

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