December 25, 2021
My first reflections are the following:
- Only two wolves are here. I know we haven’t had 10 red wolves since January 2020, but I still think about that large family and never having such a hard time counting to 10 as I did Christmas 2019.
- Four bears, yet a different four. Many still miss Virginia, even as we grow to love and accept our new little one.
- It’s an entirely new Animal Care Team since I began writing Christmas blog posts so long ago. Furthermore, no one laughs at- nor remembers the days when I carried a flip phone or pager.
- I no longer lose my glasses throughout the day. Since mask wearing began I just don’t wear them anymore.
- I never thought I would still be wearing masks almost constantly for 21 months. Thinking of the safety of the critters, the humans I work with, and the community is a constant part of the job. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) has just added an extra layer of items to think about and tend to.
Long gone are the days of working alone– or with the Security Guard. Animal Care Specialist Nicole and Volunteer Joyce are starting their Christmas morning with me at the Museum. I still arrive before them to get a boost on the day. It’s dark when I arrive (my alarm was set for 6:30, but I awoke early, much to the excitement of my cat). Getting started with the day always takes some time. Organizing food and other items, figuring out a strategy, and working in areas that are dark. I assume you cannot see the muskrat in the dark brush of bamboo below, can you?
It’s near impossible for me to get photos in the dark (my team would say I take crappy photos when it’s light too. Probably some truth to that, but I still think that’s being a bit harsh). I thought Florian was going to sleep through my early morning cleaning and feeding, but he woke up and began eating strips of peppers and sweet potatoes. Fortunately, spotted turtle was up on some cork so I was able to get a shot of him, and RHR turtle was swimming around. Enjoy the only two photos from before 7:00 when you can clearly see animals!
The sunrise is beautiful– shades of orange, pinks and purples are visible as I load up the vehicle with supplies to bring to Explore the Wild. Pretty sure I have everything I need: food for the bears, wolves, lemurs and tortoises; meds and supplements for the bears, along with the items needed to get it to them (spoon, syrup, dates).
The weather is lovely, sort of. It’s warm (I’m in a t-shirt) and the forecast is dry and 50s-60s all day. The only downside is there is a wind advisory until 4:00.
When Nicole arrives, we quickly connect, prep Ollie ferret’s meds (he takes prednisolone for his insulinoma), and I head outside. Nicole will finish up where I left off in Carolina Wildlife. She’ll then head to the Farmyard once Joyce arrives.
Communication is always important, but even more so when there are less people around. I radio Nicole as I move from area to area so she knows where I am, and, where to come look for me in the unlikely event that I don’t respond to her.
My time in Explore the Wild goes fairly smoothly. The wolves quickly run down the cliff and gobble up the food. The tortoises snooze through my presence. The lemurs not only calmly wait for their food while I clean, they calmly eat together when finally given access to their food! Gus and Mimi are snoozing in and outside the cave at bears, so I cannot get them there supplements (fish oil). Yona is sleeping on the cliff, but by the time I get up there she is down at the bear house. Our newest bear wakes quickly, quietly walks calmly onto the scale, and takes her meds without issue. She weighs 37 kgs (about double since her arrival almost 3 months ago). I was amused as she would walk outside, grab a walnut, bring it back on the scale, crack it open, eat it, and head back out to repeat.
The day has been mostly smooth. The worst so far? I took an 8 minute video of my pocket (not the first time I’ve done that). One of the mice I tossed in to the wolf yard did not make it in. I used a pair of loppers to reach and grab it, then I tossed it in.
I think the only serious item to note is that the bulls are walking, eating, sparing with each other, but they are also a bit drooly and have a deep moooooooing noise. Something we’ll definitely need to monitor.
Our water snake, who needs one more negative fecal to come out of quarantine, left me a fecal! I am typing this as I wait for my timer to ding- my fecal is set up but I cannot check the results for 12 minutes.
I cannot thank Joyce and Nicole enough for spending the morning with me. The day is certainly smoother and quicker with help.
I’ll be back the end of the day to finish up. My family will be here (never a good idea to work alone, so my youngest will work with me.) My end of day reminders:
- The usual: check on everyone, feed and ensure water, and lights out where needed.
- Get all the bears their meds (morning meds for the big three, and evening meds for our little one).
- See if Dusty and Dallas are still snotty and drooly.
- Clean off the bear scale of walnut shells.