30 September 2005

Photo of the day

If you don't like snakes, please DON'T scroll down.

If you are sqeamish at all you won't want to see this either.

If you are slightly demented like me you will appreciate the difficulty in getting this shot.

Please proceed...

I don't know about you, but I think the rat looks pretty content.

22 September 2005

Animal Personality Quiz

Click on the Cute Animals Quiz Link below to take the quiz.
I was a pony, tell me what you are.

You Are A: Pony!

ponyWho doesn't love a pony? You are one of these miniature horses, renown for your beauty and desired by many. Full of grace, you are a beautiful and very special animal, full of strength and majesty.

You were almost a: Lamb or a Mouse
You are least like a: Bear Cub or a GroundhogTake The Cute Animals Quiz Here

18 September 2005

No, thats not OUR snake in your dress shop lady

Most of the time if you provide adequate housing for an animal it stays put. But there are some animals that try to get out no matter how much you try to meet their physical and behavioral needs. We have a Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata) whose favorite pass time is getting out of his enclosure.

We use a velcro lid to seal the top of the cage. The only system better than the velcro is a slide top tank, but I can't find one in that size right now so we have been using velcro from Tera Tops. I knew that the velcro was wearing out in some parts and wouldn't you know it that snake found the one inch wide area where it wasn't sealing properly and got out one night. Then it was time for a snake hunt.

The Nature Center is located in a building with a few other businesses like a dress shop, kitchen store and art gallery. The dress shop is directly behind us. Some of my volunteer staff were FRANTIC to find the snake. I knew that snakes usually go to a warm quiet spot and then camp out. My landlord (who happens to be the love of my life) informed me that I was to find the snake.....now. Before the ladies in the dress shop got a surprise and freaked out about a loose snake. Keeping my eyes open I went about my day. If all else failed I figured I could come back at night and the snake would most likely be out in the open as that is when they are typically on the move. I once caught a 5 foot long garter snake that way. It had gotten out of the cage in my house at 2 a.m. I got up and there is it was sprawled out on the kitchen floor. I put it back in the cage and threw a rock on top to make sure it didn't get out again. Now here I am at the Nature Center hoping to find the Rosy Boa. No sign of it all day. At 5 p.m. we are getting ready to go and I sit down at the computer and do some work. Something catches my attention and so I follow the mouse cord with my eyes until I come to it. There he is resting peacefully, all snuggled up next to my CPU. One Rosy Boa. Case solved.

Can't see it? Lets move in closer.

I must have sat down at the computer five other times that day and never noticed it. You are probably thinking, "How could you have missed it?". I dunno, maybe I have been in this business too long.


14 September 2005

Love those slimy critters

I love frogs. I do. Not for the reasons you might think. I love frogs by default. Over the years I have worked with many animals and I have formed some generalized opinions about them. I love frogs because I don't love reptiles, birds or mammals.

Snakes can be scary, I don't care who you are. You can't tell me that this face isn't scary.

And nobody wants to discover this at 2 a.m., in the dark.

Birds can be annoying, loud, messy and destructive. Only insane people get cockatoos as pets. Birds can also live a really long time and they are too smart for their own good. I once saw a Moluccan cockatoo drive a Green Winged Macaw crazy enough to slice off his tongue. They were in two cages side by a side with a metal visual barrier between the two. Keepers knew the two didn't get along but there was no place to move them at the moment so a piece of metal was put up between the cages so they couldn't see each other. The macaw was always sticking his head through the gap in the cages to try and get the cockatoo. Hmmm.....the cockatoo never stuck his head through....then one day we heard screeching sound that would make your eyes bulge out of their sockets and pop. We all ran out and there was the macaw screaming with blood pouring out of his mouth and a small piece of grey tongue on the floor. And the cokcatoo? Well he was calmly sitting on his perch preening himself. Nice birdie.

Mammals are the smelliest of all. Not to mention FLEAS. For a good flea story scroll down to "My Ferret has Fleas " on this blog from SHATTER. Mammals shed, stink, eat too much and usually aren't that bright. Plus some can be down right needy and pathetic. The mammals that are smart tend to be smarter than me. I remember a gibbon at the zoo where I worked. He would wait until I was looking down and cleaning up his feces, then he would swoop down, stretch a long slender arm through the bars and slam my head into the chain link. Ahhh, what a cute little furry guy.......right.

Which brings me to Amphibians. So small and cute and harmless. Not to rough, not too slick, just perfect. All different colors and sizes. And they can't rip your ear off like a cockatoo, kill you like a rattler or infest your home like a ferret. They just sit there with that slightly demented smile on their face. A pleasant looking little friend who is content with a cricket or mealworm. They are around for a few years and then it is time for a NEW frog. Yippee! They like a little water and land, very versatile. Adorable little handfuls of happiness, that's what they are.

Here is one now.

and another

and another

So, that is why I love frogs. No frog ever slammed my head into a chain link fence.

12 September 2005

Images from the Nature Center

Bearded Dragon (Pagona vitticeps)

Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor constrictor)

Morgan with Giant African Black Millipede (Archispirostreptis gigas)

Iguana (Iguana iguana)

11 September 2005

It all started with a chipmunk

When I started working with animals at age 16 I thought is was a fluke. Where did my need to be with the animals come from? I had always thought of myself as an "inside" kinda girl. Plagued by allergies while growing up I never had much desire to go outdoors and do stuff. I remember lawn mowing was the kiss of death for me and was usually followed up with several hours of swollen eyes, sneezing, itching and general misery. That is why my sister had to do all the mowing.....sorry sissy, just getting you back for beaning with the baseball.


Which brings me to a correction from my last post. My sister pointed out that she didn't pitch the ball straight at my head. I pitched it to her and she hit it with the bat and picked me off like a can on a fence post.


So, back to the chipmunk story. I never knew how it came to be that I was destined to be an animal keeper. One day while going through some old photos I found a picture of me, age 9 or so, sitting on a stone ledge at Crater Lake in Oregon. Wearing stylish 70's green shorts (thanks mom) I am feeding a piece of what appears to be bread to this little chipmunk.
Here is the proof.

So my fascination wth feeding critters started at a young age. Only now I know that bread and other foods for humans when fed to animals cause them to store the wrong kind of fat and does not enable them to last through the winter. Resulting in a slow death from starvation over the long cold months. Poor chipmunk...he does look happy in this shot, don't you think?

One of the most challenging animals I have worked with is a Giant Indian Fruit Bat. (Pteropus giganteus) When I was working at what was formerly known as Marine World Africa U.S.A. I had to take care of Burma. Probably the meanest bat around. Not that she is mean, rather she is smart. As all bats are, they are more closely related to primates than rodents like many people think. And, bats are SMART. Burma used to bite the shit out of me every time I took her out for animal encounters. Here is a picture of her looking cute and well behaved.

The trouble with Burma was that my senior trainer kept telling me I had to discipline Burma or she would continue to bite the crap out of me. Disciplining her consisted of bending my index finger and using it to smack her on the chin when she would misbehave. Remember she is hanging down from my hand so it was easy just to reach over and bop her on the bottom of the chin. This was hard for me though, because I believe that if I have to hit an animal to get it to do what I want then I must be wanting it to do something it doesn't need to do. So, Burma and I would walk around Marine World having our own private battle. Her wanting to bite me until I would take her back or until I would give her some fruit and me hating to hit her but growing increasingly flustered at being bit over and over and over.....I guess we worked it out eventually. Probably when I left that job for good. I don't make it a secret that I don't agree with the training protocol at that facility. I do think that now I could apply some alternate training techniques to that situation that might have improved the experience for me and for Burma. Still, I have never forgotten that bat. In between bites, she was pretty cool to be around, and I was able to dispell the idea that bats are stupid flying rodents during the many animal talks in the park. Sheesh, that bat sure had me figured out from the start.

10 September 2005

My sister is thirty something!

Happy Birthday Sissy!

Today is my sisters birthday. She is the smartest person I know and the most beautiful. I love her to death. It didn't start out that way however. What I remember of childhood was that we just didn't assoicate together very much. We had completely different lives and that was ok with us. One time, I was maybe eight or so and we were playing baseball in the yard and she pitched the ball to me and hit me in the head so hard I got a concussion. It was supposed to be an accident, but I know she was trying to take out her little sister. As we got older we became better friends. I don't know if there was a specific event or time that brought us together. I just know that all of sudden we became best friends. There is truly nothing I don't tell her. Through differences and life changes we will always be close.

One time, when we were both in our late teens, (were we older? I am terrible with dates) we pooled our money and bought a patio furniture set for our parents for their anniversary. We brought it home and set it up. Then we got M&M's and champagne flutes and some champagne. We surprised mom and dad when we got home and the four of us sat out there on the patio eating M&M's and drinking champagne all night. Mom and dad were so surpirsed and happy. I know that day meant a lot to them. That is one of the best memories I have of my family while we were growing up.

My sister is a great person and has always believed in me and helped me when I needed it. I am very proud of her and glad that she has found happiness in her life. I am teary eyed as I write this because she means so much to me. (Karen-I know your eyes are semi-closed int his shot but it is a beautiful picture of you, I have always said that you never take a bad picture. This is when we had dinner with Uncle Jim after dad passed away.)

05 September 2005

Pacific Shores

This morning we got up and loaded our quads to go riding on the beach at Pacific Shores. We rode a couple of miles up to the mouth of the Smith River and the Pacific Ocean. It was beautiful, sunny, no wind, you could ride in a light sweatshirt. This area is under consideration to be closed to recreation because of shorebird nesting, specifically snowy plovers. The beach was spotted with small groups of people walking, riding, and fishing. We stayed on the beach and on the trail in the dunes. I guess people go off the trail and that affects snowy plover habitat. It also may be that human disruption stops the plovers from leaving the beach and entering the dunes to make nests. There is miles of beach and lots of shorebirds, I would like to see a couple of miles closed off to protect habitat but still allow people to use some of the beach. Many people come here to ride horses, quads and off road vehicles. Not to mention all of the fisherpeople, birdwatchers and hikers that frequent Pacific Shores. It is a very beautiful area that needs to be preserved. There is no information anywhere out there about the birds or other wildlife. I am thinking about pursuing the idea of placing some informational signage out there to let people know about the different habitats. Now I must get ready for the first day of school tomorrow! I wonder if all of my high school students will be bright eyed and bushy tailed for school tomorrow. Hmmm...I doubt it.

03 September 2005

Our newest exhibit

Moon Jellies (Aurelia aurita) at the Nature Center Posted by Picasa

Labor Day Rush

I start teaching next Tuesday a the high school again. Two Nutrition classes and one Marine Science. This is the first time for both of those classes. Previously I have taught Biology and General Science so I am in the middle of trying to create exciting new curriculum for this coming school year. This combined with trying to complete permits for a hawk we are getting, building the hawk's enclosure, training a new animal care volunteer, while running the Nature Center. I really need more staff, but only those who are willing to volunteer. It seems that in recent years there are less people willing to work for free. I understand everyone wants to be paid, but what about the importance of gaining skills, knowledge and experience as a volunteer in your area of interest. I volunteered over 1000 hours while in high school and I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. I will come back to this later. For now, the jellyfish are calling (what, you've never heard a jellyfish call?) and I have to go prepare their brine shrimp for the day. Here is a pictures of our moon jellies.

01 September 2005

A sigh of relief

Some scientists in Warsaw did a study with rats that showed they would sigh after they received a signal indicating they would not be recieving an electrical tail shock. First, they trained the rats to expect a shock to the tail after a specific signal. Then they introduced a second signal that was followed with a reprieve from the shock. Through many trials they recorded that the rats sighed after hearing the reprieve signal more often than after the "shock" signal. Some people have voiced concerns over this type of treatment stating it is cruelty to animals. While my life is dedicated to taking care of animals I still think some animal research is important. But it is a catch-22 situation. Obviuosly, if no animals were harmed it would be best but think of where we would be without all of the discoveries that have been made in science with the help of our animal friends.

During my time at the zoo, I spent many times talking to people who came to look at the animals. Some people wanted the animals to do something. Others were saddened by the restricted existence of the animals. While I could go on for hours about zoos I will try to stick to my point here (did I mention I like to go off on tangents :) An animal in a cage has limited stimulation. In the wild there are a variety of stimuli to keep the animals active and alert. I think that providing a stimulating environment is beneficial to the animal. While tail shocking isn't pleasant, is it as bad as our emotions make it out to be? The scientist who completed this study stated that the rats were limited in how many shocks per day and were handled and petted both before and after the experiments and showed no signs of aggression. So, while being shocked wasn't fun just how detrimental was it to the rats involved?

The trend in many zoos today is towards multi-species exhibits. This creates new stimulus for the animals through interaction with cagemates, some of which is not pleasant. Many times while caring for captive animals we saw the worst injuries from animals that shared an exhibit. And if you have ever watched the discovery channel you know that life in the wild can be brutal! So my point...my point...its here somewhere.....my point is that we shouldn't abuse animals to develop a new perfume. However, I'd like to thank the cat who took one for me so I wouldn't get polio.