Wind power, animal power

Reno’s Animal Ark, which is closed for winter, rode out last weekend’s record 82-mile-an-hour winds in style, said co-founder Aaron Hiibel.

“We had one small window that was hit by a piece of debris, but that was about it,” Hiibel said. “The biggest problems we have are three-and-a-half-foot snow drifts.”

Animal Ark provides permanent care in captivity to animals that, because of temperament or injury, can’t be returned to the wild

Animal Ark was the only place in the area that had power when Hiibel returned home through Red Rock on Saturday night. The 38-acre sanctuary is off the power grid and generates its own electricity through solar panels and a wind generator. The animal compound got its power freedom through necessity, since it would have cost $75,000 to bring in wires to add it to Sierra Pacific’s power grid.

“The rest of Red Rock was dark, but my wife fired up a load of laundry and did dishes,” Hiibel said.

The animals weren’t fazed by the winds, either, and most enjoy playing in the snow, which has collected since Saturday’s windstorm. Two of Animal Ark’s four bears are hibernating. The other two are release candidates and are awaiting a springtime thaw to go back to the wild.

Hiibel said the winter is a tough time for the Animal Ark, since there are no tours to generate income for the facility.

“We always need help this time of year, although we’re probably not as bad off as some of the nonprofits,” he said. To make a donation to the Animal Ark, 1265 Deerlodge Road, Reno, call (775) 970-3111.