So in my wonderful line of work I meet a lot of other zookeepers. And we all admit that we have pretty cool jobs. We get to work with animals all day. Some of us work with monkeys and some of us work with fish. But my job is the best by far. Because not only do I get to work with all the cool animals that the museum has, but I also get to work with the DINOSAURS! You did know we have dinosaurs here, right? Now THAT is one tough keeper job, I can tell you! You ever try cleaning up after a 30 ton sauropod? :) You should see my shovel bill!
Generally our dinosaurs are content to live around our dinosaur trail area. They have a good bit of room there, the herbivores have their favorite browse there and the carnivores enjoy watching the herbivores (and small children). Sometimes they wander off, and it’s the keeper’s job to go round them up and herd them back to the trail area. The Edmontia especially like to wallow in the muddy swamp on the hot days. I think she does it just so I have to scrub her off afterwards!
At first I wasn’t so sure I would be able to be a dinosaur keeper – it can be a pretty nerve wracking job sometimes. Especially when the animals are in a bad mood. The Albertosaurus especially has a tendency to be cranky. He roars when he’s hungry, or when he meets someone new, or when he’s going to eat you or when he has to poop… it’s pretty scary to have a big carnivore like that charging at you and roaring. Especially when it’s your first day!
I have become much braver at handling him when he’s being a stinker. It’s mainly a territoriality thing and I’ve tried to explain to him that he’s the only Albertosaurus for miles, but he still feels the need to let everyone know he’s the biggest predator around.
Every species is different and every animal has it’s own personality. For instance, the Styracosaurus can be a decent sort, but quick to be irritable and you want to not be underfoot if he has a tantrum. He would normally be a herd animal and his eyesight isn’t very good, but his nose is amazing. As long as he can smell me or hear me, he knows he’s safe. The Alamosaurus is a very easy going, albeit huge animal and is slow moving enough that if you are careful, you won’t get squished. He spends most of his day meandering along and eating. The Stygimoloch on the other hand are constantly squabbling with each other! It’s like having two siblings always fighting! I am forever getting between the two to break them up before they do any real damage to each other. Once or twice they’ve gotten me in the middle and I’ve had to show them this isn’t the prehistoric Bronx anymore, but then it’s all okay. I’d take them out for calzones, but they’re vegetarians.
Speaking of vegetarians, the Leptoceratops are “supposed” to be plant eaters, right? I call shenanigans!! There I was the other day, minding my own business and trying to eat my lunch in peace when those sneaky little raptor baits ran in and stole my cheese sandwich! So not fair! And after I spent all morning raking up after them! Last time I make sure they don’t go extinct! I was really looking forward to that sandwich too. Why couldn’t they have stolen my mushy banana?
Some days I do get to feel like I make a difference though. It’s not always just about feeding and cleaning and scooping lots and lots and lots and lots of poop. Some days I get to do something worthwhile. We have a few Maiasaurs on grounds and these duckbills are some of the best mothers the dinosaur world has to offer. They build great nests and raise their babies up and feed and protect them like none other. Sometimes they need a little help though.
Especially when you get a bunch of Troodons in the area. Now Troodons are one of the more intelligent dinosaurs and raptor like in their hunting. So a nest of Maiasaur eggs and young doesn’t stand a great chance if they make a coordinated effort to get at them. That’s where the keeper steps in. Have to protect my animals after all!
The Troodons can find food somewhere else- they are fairly omnivorous and there’s lots of plants and other animals and even a donkey in the farmyard for them to eat. :) Mwah ha ha.
All in all, every day is exhausting, tiring, and completely fulfilling. I wouldn’t have it an other way. And if I’m lucky I get to end it with a nice nap relaxing by my very favorite dinosaur – the Parasaurolophus. She’s an absolute sweetheart. She uses that big crest on her head to amplify sound and if anyone comes by to bother me she definitely lets them have it with a very loud reminder! Good thing I have earplugs in! :) But she’ll keep an eye on things while I rest up. Because tomorrow’s another big day at the museum!
By the way, I had to also say that the great photos in this blog were taken by our awesome pair of minions (uh, I mean Interns) Casey & Jessica! Thanks Guys! And also, you can click on a picture to increase it’s size. (Almost to Dinosaurian proportions!)