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Christmas 2023

Another Christmas is here. It’s sooooo much warmer than last year!

The theme this year is bad photos. EVERY SINGLE PHOTO I took was truly horrible. So bad. Really really bad. As cold as last year was, that’s how bad all my photos are. So bad, that I thought about not posting any. (My first Christmas posts about 15 years ago had no photos, and I contemplated returning to that format). However, they are all so bad it’s making me chuckle, so I will share them with you. The best of the worst are embedded below. If you prefer, just close your eyes and imagine stunning images.

I’m wearing pajamas to work. I was discussing with the team on Friday some Christmas traditions. Since I always work the holiday (and don’t celebrate it) I was interested in how they would be spending the day. While numerous items were shared, spending much of the day in pajamas was a theme that was desired. So, in honor of them, I’m wearing my pajamas.

My pjs are old Museum shirts. When the shirts get stained, or torn, I cut off the sleeves or tie-dye them (or both) and just wear them to bed. Apparently, I did both to this shirt.

Early thoughts before the day gets started:

  • The annual Christmas-Team is settling in. With me are Nicole, and Volunteer Joyce, again this year. I think Nicole would be happy to be here all day by herself to make sure the critters are cared for. However, long gone are the days when people work alone- a very wise decision made several years back.
  • This is the first year my mother offered to come in and help now that she lives in NC. (Since I know she is reading this I will not elaborate on the helpfulness of this offer, but as usual, she is generous and kind, and sharing of her time).
  • Yet again, we still have four (4) black bears, but it’s a different group of four, again. Goodbyes continue to be hard and the arrivals are welcome, albeit challenging at the same time. (I’ll write about our newest black bear Murray in the coming weeks).

Nicole will do the literal, and figurative, heavy lifting of the day. The division of labor is heavily in my favor (meaning, Nicole is bearing the heavy load). I’ll basically take care of the Explore the Wild critters, quarantine, and get some blog time. She’ll take care of indoors, we’ll divide treatments, and she and Joyce will knock out the Farmyard.

Nicole was too busy working to adequately pose for my photo. It’s almost as if she knew my photos were going to be bad today.
Nicole’s photos turned out slightly better than mine.

Nicole is a rock star, and a workhorse. She believes in always wearing shorts, working efficiently, rapidly, and thoroughly, and there’s never anything she wouldn’t do to ensure the team is taken care of. Nicole would’ve been in at 4 AM if I let her. Instead, we compromised on 6:30 AM. (By compromise, I said how about 6:30 and she said ok).

I made my way in the dark to ETW. Functional headlights on our service vehicle were a welcome bonus this year! First stop, lemurs and tortoises. My work began with a flashlight, until quickly the lights turned on. No heating or water issues, and all 11 critters seemed okay. (The tortoises as usual sleeping through my morning visit). With the tortoise habitat clean, and the lemur stalls mostly clean, my work progressed quickly, and error free.

The five tortoises were in different areas. You can see three here buried in the straw


Cassandra eating a primate biscuit.

Both Wolves were out! Adeyha, our male, usually in the den, was on top of the cliff. The below photo might be my favorite from the morning. I’m sure you can clearly see both wolves. Adeyha on the left, next to the tree, and Oak, our female, on the right. Yes? You see it, don’t you??

I know, horrible photo of both wolves! Trust me– both wolves.


While I was at the bear house, I heard sirens in the distance, and then, as the wolves typically do, they both started howling. For a long time too. It was awesome to hear the two going on for so long.

In the bear house were the two bears I expected. Mimi was snoozing away in stall #1, and Murray was up and about on the other side of the house (Little was asleep on the cliff, and Gus was snoozing in the cave).

My first Christmas miracle… Mimi did not huff at me! She slowly, quietly, and seemingly politely, woke up and took her fish oil supplements easily. Murray, our 11 month old, quickly walked on to the scale (46 kg) and took his meds, then went outside to eat.

Murray eating sweet potato and bear chow.

As I finished up at bears, Nicole and Joyce were taking care of the Farmyard. Volunteer Joyce is a gift to us. She’s been volunteering for a few years, and is one of our go-to-expert-volunteers who is welcome on a closed holiday to help ease the load. Moreover, while I really do like doing dishes, I always get soaking wet. Joyce will help keep me dry this year too.


Ray and Emily alpaca

Because Nicole took on the lions share of the work, I was able to get to quarantine early and care for our newest team members. Check out this amazing photo:

It took me twelve photos to get this one where at least hopefully you can identify that there are 2, brown, furry, things.

These two young ferrets will join our Education Team when they are done with quarantine. I was so excited because it’s only been a few days that they are actually using the litter pans. All “waste” has stayed not only inside their habitat, but also in the litter pans! Hallelujah- Christmas miracle #2! My excitement may have lead to me locking my keys in the quarantine building. Have no fear, Super-Nicole arrived in a flash to save me, and my keys.

As the morning winds down, everything and everyone is in descent shape. Nicole and I will review the afternoon list, setting me up for what hopes to be an easy end to the day.

I was reminded that when I come back to work tomorrow I’ve also got to get some permit renewals that have to be taken care of. My hope is that it will go as smoothly as it did for Mr. S. Nicholas Claus of the North Pole. I’ll be back the end of the day to finish up and assure that all is well here. May everyone’s day be filled with what brings them a little (or a lot) more joy, and peace.

All smiles from the Christmas Crew.