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Blog At the Museum

MLS Mailbag No.3

Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on in which I take your questions about the Museum of Life and Science and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and we have a little fun along the way!

Let’s get to it.

How do you know when to bring another animal to MLS? How do you find a good fit? – sab0tron on Instagram

Starting this week’s MLS Mailbag off with a BANGER of a question with an equally bangarang answer. As has become my wont, I turned to Senior Director of Animal Care Sherry Samuels to learn what there is to know about this process.

It boils down to this. It’s usually easy to know when to bring an animal in — an animal has died, or left, and a vacancy needs to be filled. Sometimes it’s as simple as needing new animals for education programs. Other times, it’s about capacity. For example, we can house several birds in the Carolina Wildlife aviary, so we connect often with local rehabbers for birds who need a home. And occasionally, it’s down to external factors. Our red wolves’ movements are determined by red wolf recovery and management groups, so those are sort of decided for us!

But let’s get to that second question because Sherry says the hardest part is finding the animal that is the best fit for the Museum.

“We know our education team uses certain animals for programs, like a bearded dragon, chinchilla, or ball python,” Sherry said. “In these cases, we ask questions and learn what we can about the critter’s current status, like its housing set up, diet, handleability, veterinary care, age, etc. We learn as much as we can through documentation, but we also send team members to meet animals and talk with their current human caregivers.”

The same can be said for non-program animals. We agreed to give Little Bear a home when asked because the Museum had the space and because she is female. Only one male per sleuth (the name for a group of bears) is our rule, so Gus is king!

Gus (right) and Little Bear (left) shortly after Little was introduced to the sleuth.


Playtime for Gus (the upside down one) and Little (the composed one).

Can the big earth sphere get a Jupiter option on it? – Elise

Oh, man. Science on a Sphere is one of my personal faves inside the Museum. I didn’t realize watching digitized real-time climate patterns on a massive globe could be so engrossing, but it is. And did you know there’s a sea turtle migration option? YEAH! It shows the main currents sea turtles use around the world.

Visitors checking out Science on a Sphere. This could be you! It SHOULD be you! What are you doing still reading this??

Anyway, Jupiter. I got up with MLS Exhibits Engineer Kyle Zobel to help us learn a little more about the piece’s capabilities.

“The big earth sphere has a whole lot of program options that we can run, including one of Jupiter and all the other planets in the solar system,” Kyle said. “Sometimes we even run the planet programs during special events or when someone on the museum staff requests it.

“Most of the time though, we choose programs that fit in with the weather theme since the exhibit is located in our weather gallery. Lots of things about earth, like how storms form, how weather changes over time, and some of our local neighbors that affect our weather like the moon!”

So, as cool as it would be to have the stormy eye of Jupiter displayed so close, it’s really important to maintain focus on exhibit intent. Science on a Sphere is part of our Weather exhibit and is intended to display worldwide climate data sets from NOAA and NASA as they play out across the digital globe.

How much does the Museum spend on food for the animals annually? – Igor

At this point, Sherry and I are best friends and I rely on her input to help me plan my day and every move I make. Just kidding. Sort of.

Taking into account all of our animals, Sherry informed me that the Museum of Life and Science spends roughly $38,000 on food annually, with another $10,000 of food coming via donation (typically rodents for snakes and some of our more omnivorous birds and mammals). That’s, like, a million times more than my annual grocery budget, so let’s break it down a bit!

Our pals in The Farmyard (goats, chickens, bulls, alpacas, a donkey, and a pig) consume an estimated $12,000 in food, and the total bill for our four bears is pretty much the same. One of the biggest pieces of the total annual food costs is produce — yummy fruits and veggies — weighing in at more than $10,000.


That’s all for now, y’all! I hope you will join me next week for more questions and more answers.

If you have a question you’d like answered or are looking forward to the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes’ season as much as I am, you can drop us a note here.