Mental Floss

5 Animals That Would Love Your Used Christmas Tree

Emily Petsko
Stephanie Pilick, AFP/Getty Images
Stephanie Pilick, AFP/Getty Images / Stephanie Pilick, AFP/Getty Images

With Christmas now behind us, you might be thinking about taking down your tree soon. If you have a real tree, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the stale cookies and ripped wrapping paper, though. Many animals enjoy eating or playing with pine trees, so you may want to check with zoos or farms in your area to see if they’ll take it off your hands. Below, we’ve listed five animals that won’t turn down a tasty tree, as well as several locations that are currently accepting them. (But if you’re planning to donate, make sure to remove the tinsel and decorations first!)

1. Kangaroos

The North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland, Georgia, is accepting donated Christmas trees for the “enrichment” of its kangaroos, porcupines, camels, wolves, and other furry residents. “Enrichment is a fancy word for entertainment,” Rachel Heck, visitor experience lead at the zoo, tells the Gainesville Times. “It keeps their minds stimulated.” Different animals use the trees in different ways, but kangaroos in particular like to grab and play with the branches, which are suspended above their enclosure. The zoo will accept trees until December 31 as long as they’re still green and chemical-free.

2. Goats

Goats will eat just about anything, and Christmas trees are no exception. The Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo in New Era, Michigan, will happily accept Christmas trees until the end of January, which will be used to feed its goats. The pine needles are chock-full of Vitamin C and they also help control worms in the animals. Cindy Lewis, co-owner of the farm, tells the Detroit Free Press that “The goats can devour a tree in a matter of minutes, they get very excited!”

3. Pigs

Much like goats, pigs also stand to benefit from snacking on pine trees, which serve as a natural dewormer. Last year, the Funny Foot Farm and Petting Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, is accepted leftover trees from a nearby tree farm, which zookeepers fed to their pigs and goats. The Zoo is accepting donations this year; they asked that you remove tinsel before donating. Call (520) 399-6555 for more information.

4. Lions

At Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania’s Paws ‘N’ Claws Wild Animal Park—home to lions, warthogs, monkeys, giraffes, and many other animals—donated Christmas trees can serve as either a snack or as a toy. When lions woke up to find a tree in their enclosure in January 2019, “They got very excited,” head zookeeper Pamela Zoglino said. “They love new things like that.” Many of the cats use the trees as big scratching posts.

"It's good enrichment for the animals," lead animal keeper Carina Fabbricatore told a local ABC affiliate last year. "It gives them something to smell, rip apart, rub on, play with, drag around—just something to enrich their day." Claws ‘N’ Paws is closed for the season, but you can still donate your tinsel- and ornament-free tree (which must also be untreated) off in the parking lot any day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

5. Elephants

In recent years, The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, has given resident elephants donated Christmas trees to munch on around the holidays. The trees supplement the elephants’ usual diet and provide an extra dose of nutrients, thanks to the sweet resin they contain. They also make a nice plaything, and you can watch an elephant tossing around a branch in the video above. The Sanctuary is accepting trees this year until January 5; all trees must be free of pesticides, ornaments, and things like tinsel, and there's a five-tree limit per household.