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by , Keeper
I have been working at the museum since 2003, and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can start my day with amazing animals surrounding me. I enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing in my spare time when the weather is nice.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and spend a lot of time behind the scenes, but you might find me at a public program or feeding the farmyard animals in the afternoon.

CreatureFeature: Sherry the Head Honcho

May 10th, 2010

Sherry has written a spotlight post on all of the keepers, so now it’s time for us to do a feature on her. A “CreatureFeature” will have to do because it would feel wrong to steal her “Spotlight” thunder.  Sherry’s worked at the Museum for 17 years! She’s our Animal Department Director and has a great sense of humor, so hopefully she will not be too embarrassed by the hilarity the keepers wanted to share about her.

Sherry’s hair alone has some good stories behind it. She has very long curly hair; the type that would perhaps get tangled in things such as a large wolf net or a type of wire fencing called “hot grass” that was once used  in the wolf yard. She caught her hair in the hot grass not once, but twice, and following, enriched us all with colorful language! She apparently also uses a lovely fragrant shampoo that causes our animals to want to eat her hair. Particularly our steer, Max.  Once while standing in front of his stall door talking to visitors, Max licked up a big piece of her hair and started chewing. She got it back, but not without some Max drool to go with it. The funnier part of this story is that as she was re-enacting the scene for Kent, Max ate her hair again.

Now let’s move on to some stories about Sherry’s apparel:

About 6 years ago, part of our black bear fence got knocked down due to some careless construction, and Sherry and other keepers rushed to get the fence standing again. The area was really muddy and it sucked the shoes right off her feet while she was managing the fence with Kent. You try holding up a fence to the bear yard in just socks!

Often, the items Sherry wears clue keepers in on what she’s doing that day. If she comes in wearing earrings, we know she has an important meeting. And if she comes in wearing a bandanna, we know she’s going to be doing some sort of rigorous (and probably filthy) task. This is usually worrisome, as one of us will be recruited to help!

Then there’s the softball catcher knee pads. Sherry’s a bit superstitious about this and believes that as long as she’s wearing her knee pads when catching up the wolves for veterinary examinations, then nothing will go wrong while we are inside the exhibit. Based on the above stories of hair accidents while in the wolf yard, however, I don’t know how true this superstition is!

There are little personality quirks that the keepers have all come to expect from Sherry. For example, she always has to buy things in bulk. There is no buying just one or two of the necessary items…she stocks us up for the entire year! Like nuts for our bears. Boxes and boxes and boxes of them! Then it’s Kristen’s job to figure out storage!  (See last year’s watermelon post).

Speaking of …Sherry is notorious for convincing people to throw any and everything possible on Kristen’s desk. If other staff donate newspapers to use for the animals, and ask Sherry where to put  them, the papers end up on Kristen’s desk. This pretty much goes for anything you can think of: empty boxes, shredded paper, deliveries, watermelons, empty containers, enrichment items, etc.

Sherry has a reward system where she’ll give a keeper a token for going above and beyond. These tokens can be saved up and turned in for rewards like a free lunch on Sherry. She does occasionally give tokens for going above and beyond, but we’ve all come to learn that you are much more likely to get one by saying something really witty and clever, or even for just being a good sport when Sherry is ragging on you in front of others.

Sherry is in charge of making all things run smoothly. She’s the go-to person for important things like the annual surprise USDA inspection. As luck has it, she’s almost never actually on grounds when the inspector arrives! We almost always have to page her to come in so that she can escort the inspector. There’s even a pager code for this! (8732, which is USDA on the phone)

She’s also, of course, the person to turn to for emergencies. Although emergencies are rare, we do our best to prepare for them.  During emergency trainings, we act out different scenarios like animal escapes, hurricanes, power outages, and even a child falling in the bear pool! But most of the time Sherry will set these scenarios up so that she is “out of town in an important meeting (most likely wearing earrings) and can’t be reached”. This is helpful for us because we learn better from our mistakes when we don’t have her to guide us; Sherry is so good at handling emergencies that it’s just too easy to have her there telling us what to do.

She also directs all of the really big projects. Cleaning the bear pool once a year is a major undertaking, and Sherry is there with us (wearing a bandanna), knee deep in the muck.  The bears are in the house while we do the cleaning, but one year Ursula wouldn’t come in, so we cleaned while she was in the exhibit with us. All was fine for the first few hours of the day, as Ursula just laid around from a distance and watched us. This all changed when Sherry sent someone on a run for donuts. As soon as the donuts were brought into the yard, Ursula (50 yards away) caught the scent and decided napping was over and she’d like to be closer to the donuts!   Cleaning for that day was done, and Sherry hasn’t lived down her generous thought.

In all seriousness, Sherry is very good at her job.  Managing a collection of animals (keepers included) can be really difficult. She knows the job like the back of her hand, even though we all tease her for making mistakes on the occasions she jumps in to help with keepers’ work!  She’s an extremely generous and honest person and is able to skillfully communicate the high standards of animal husbandry she expects to keepers, guests, and other museum staff. She supports the keepers, and is our best cheerleader. She takes on additional leadership roles on Museum committees, and as a 17 year employee, dedicates much of who she is to the Museum.  We really appreciate that Sherry focuses on our strengths, and challenges us to be better keepers.

Join the conversation:

  1. Great “creature-feature” MJ. I really enjoyed this one! Thanks for the great stories.

    Posted by Troy
  2. We need to name our next woodchuck after her (not me).

    Posted by Wendy
  3. Wonderful story Marilyn! Wish I had been there to see the Max re-enactment – that’s one I haven’t heard!

    Posted by Debbie
  4. Keeper Comment :

    Hilarious post, M-jo! Thorough and accurate!

    Posted by Erin Brown
  5. Director Comment :

    Let’s see, where to begin?!?
    -Last week I wore a bandanna and earrings on the same day.
    -I’ve been in the animal dept. for 17 years, but I started at the Museum in 1991.
    -I believe my hair has gotten stuck more then twice- Marilyn is being too kind.
    _ I am just ahead of my time in the “green” movement – buying in bulk is good for the environment.
    -And let’s face it, good humor should be celebrated and rewarded. I guess Marilyn deserves a few tokens for this post.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  6. 17 years! That is dedication. It also means that she would have been at the museum when I was a teenage volunteer. Oh, nostalgia! (I used to work in the Treehouse, and always hoped that a kid would ask me to take out the cornsnake)

    Posted by Megan Brett
  7. Keeper Comment :

    In Marilyn’s defense, the day you wore a bandanna and earrings in the same day you were trimming the bear cliff in the hot sun in the morning (and recruited Larry), and giving a TV interview later that morning.

    Posted by Erin Brown
  8. Keeper Comment :

    Oh, score! A few tokens! I will have a free lunch in no time!! (Ahem, where ARE those tokens, Sherry??)

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson

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by , Keeper
I have been working at the museum since 2003, and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can start my day with amazing animals surrounding me. I enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing in my spare time when the weather is nice.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and spend a lot of time behind the scenes, but you might find me at a public program or feeding the farmyard animals in the afternoon.

Oh no, someone’s in the bear pool! Oh wait, it’s just Sherry…

October 15th, 2009

You may have read a post recently about the bear pool getting its annual cleaning. Well, the day after we finished, one of the drain covers at the bottom of the pool was seen in the middle of the exhibit yard (no doubt having been used as a toy for our playful bears). We had to get the drain cover back on, and Sherry volunteered herself for the job. She doesn’t usually get to help us with daily routines, but she sometimes seems to oddly enjoy doing the really strange tasks!

Watch the video below and check it out. You can see that Sherry actually maneuvers the drain cover back in with her feet, and then hollers,” Success!” with her arms triumphantly raised in the air. But then, instead of wanting to get out like any normal person, she decides to go check the other drain cover to make sure it is still secure. This is when I got skeptical of the true motives of her endeavor (I think the pool was just too sparkly and clean to resist not taking a dip!).

YouTube Preview Image

Join the conversation:

  1. Cassidy and Erin volunteered for the next drain cover replacement. I am thinking of sending Cassidy in to do it while Erin films it with her new handy dandy indestructable camera that she suckered me in to buying!

    Posted by Sherry
  2. Thank you for making my day with this post, Marilyn. :)

    Posted by Leiana
  3. I think the camera is submersible. If so maybe we could post our first underwater footage!

    Posted by Larry
  4. Hilarious! I love it when she says, "It's a little chilly!". Really, I can't stop laughing.

    Posted by Erin Brown

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum for many years now. I spend most of my time behind-the-scenes in the Vet room. You might catch me out and about with one of our many veterinarians checking on the animals.
When I'm not hanging out with one of our vets I'm usually in the Vet room running a fecal looking for intestinal parasites! If I'm not up to my elbows in poo you'll find me at the computer updating the health records of our animals or preparing for Vet Rounds.

Keepers Being Keepers!

June 30th, 2014
Helping fix the Hay truck!

Helping fix the Hay truck!

Jill training pigs!

Jill training pigs!

Sarah and Rocky doing a program!

Sarah and Rocky doing a program!

Aaron and Sherry putting watermelons away!

Aaron and Sherry putting watermelons away!

Taking care of Ladybelle when she was sick!

Taking care of Ladybelle when she was sick!

Kent opossum sitting!

Kent opossum sitting!

Jill entertaining Jaybird!

Jill entertaining Jaybird!

Kent getting some love from Aaron!

Kent getting some love from Aaron!

Keepers helping treat Max!

Keepers helping treat Max!

Jessi being Jessi! Sorry this is the only pic I have of Jessi...sorry Autumn and Elaina I have no pics of either of you....be warned I'll be chasing you down with my camera for a future blog!!!!

Jessi being Jessi! Sorry this is the only pic I have of Jessi…sorry Autumn and Elaina I have no pics of either of you….be warned I’ll be chasing you down with my camera for a future blog post!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Keeper Comment :

    Jaybird looks horrible when hes molting

    Posted by Jill Brown

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum for many years now. I spend most of my time behind-the-scenes in the Vet room. You might catch me out and about with one of our many veterinarians checking on the animals.
When I'm not hanging out with one of our vets I'm usually in the Vet room running a fecal looking for intestinal parasites! If I'm not up to my elbows in poo you'll find me at the computer updating the health records of our animals or preparing for Vet Rounds.

Zoe Keeps Katy Company

June 21st, 2014

In the Animal Department most of the keepers share an office. It is crazy to think, but we cram 6 keepers into 1 office! Sherry has her own office, but she has a window and her office opens into the Keeper office so she is always around much activity. Aaron has his own office, but it also has a window. For me I get to spend my time in the lonely Vet room without a window and without companionship so whenever an animal is ill and has to spend time in the Vet room I get a little too excited to have the company. Usually when an animal has to spend time in the Vet room it is for a very long period of time. We had a chicken (PPAL or Princess Poops A Lot) who spent over a year in the Vet room and there was Nimbus Rabbit who spent many months in the Vet room and now it is Zoe Turtle’s turn to hang out in the Vet room and I couldn’t be happier! I never in my life thought I would get so excited to have the companionship of a turtle but the days that Zoe gets to hang out with me are the best days of the week! I know he gets bored, but I enjoy his company greatly! Zoe is a water turtle and is recovering from a shell wound so he must be out of the water for a certain period of time to give the medication time to work. I’ve been trying to give him stuff to do while he “dry docks” (stays out of the water) but my ideas don’t seem to impress him, but today I put out a hide log and this is what he did with it!

2014 May 19 008

Zoe using Enrichment!

8-9-11 050

Nimbus and Silkie Chicken hanging out in the Vet Room.

kt

Princess Poops A Lot and Katy in the Vet Room!

On Friday May 23, 2014 I had a very special visitor to the Vet room and I was super excited! Many people don’t know but we have a Red-tailed Hawk who lives off exhibit behind-the-scenes and on Friday we had some electrician’s working in Misha’s area so Misha got to come hang out with me in the Vet room! It was the best day, I had Zoe and Misha to keep me company!

2014 May 27 001

Misha hanging out!

2014 May 27 002

Misha on his perch.

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.
Tags: , ,

Limerick + Quiz = Quizerick?

January 27th, 2014

Sherry’s Christmas 2013 post got me thinking (or rhyming?). It’s been a while since I wrote a poem!

On that note, a limerick quiz to get you thinking:

 

Our tools are eclectic and many

but one keepers love more than any.

A little different are all;

some large and some small.

This is one tool we have in plenty.

 

It’s a bit of a tough guess, but give it a try!

 

 

Join the conversation:

  1. What about shovels to pick up plenty of stuff?

    Posted by dj
  2. What about your hands, useful “tool” for all sorts of things.

    Posted by HvdB
  3. If hands isn’t the answer, Auggie, Miss Piggy, the lemurs and the bears think food is a wonderful and yummy tool for enrichment and training.

    Posted by dj
  4. Keeper Comment :

    Hands and Shovels are both really good guesses, but what I had in mind was a little different. It’s an actual tool that most of us keepers carry with us for both routine and unexpected reasons. It’s a bit hard to carry a shovel with you all the time.

    Posted by Sarah Van de Berg
  5. A pocket knife (since you usually carry one in your pocket wherever you go)

    Posted by Carrie
  6. A knife (since you usually carry one in your pocket wherever you go)

    Posted by Carrie
  7. a multi-tool.

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  8. a communication device like a cell phone, pager or walkie talkie??

    Posted by dj
  9. Keeper Comment :

    Now we’re getting somewhere! The answer will post in a few days…just to keep you all waiting.

    Posted by Sarah Van de Berg
  10. Hi Sarah,

    A bit of the past but still enjoy your poems..:)

  11. Keeper Comment :

    I’m glad you enjoy them!

    Posted by Sarah Van de Berg

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by , Director
I've been at the Museum sooooo long - longer than many of our interns have been alive. I do a little bit of everything as part of my job: care for the animals, work with the keepers and other staff, spend time with guests. Lucky me!
I spend a lot of time behind-the-scenes, or here after hours, but if you really want to see me, you'll have to sign-up for a behind-the-scenes program.

Peanuts

December 4th, 2013

My development friends think I should join their team since I am so good at raising $$.  I recently sold a BUNCH of peanuts to raise money for programs that support the prevention of child abuse  (For the Exchange Clubs Family Center of Durham). This is a fun time for me: I ask for money to help support the prevention of child abuse (who can turn that down!) and then I mention that the Museum’s bears seem to LOVE peanuts. People hand me money for the peanuts and then hand me the peanuts to give to the bears. A WIN-WIN!

Thanks everyone for the support!

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Kent Steps in to Help

November 10th, 2013

Compared to a “normal” 8AM – 5PM, Monday-Friday job, we have rather weird working schedules here in the animal department. For example, in the 5 days a week I work, I have 4 different sets of hours. Keepers show up between 7 and 8AM (sometimes even earlier on crazy days) and stay between 3PM and 5:30PM depending on their scheduled work week. Some keepers work Sunday – Thursday, some work Tuesday – Saturday, some work Monday – Friday and one keeper is currently working Thursday – Monday. It doesn’t take all that long to get used to, but I’ve gotten many comments from people in the outside world similar to, “how do you remember when you work?” After a while, it just becomes routine and I, for one, appreciate the daily change up; it makes my day go by faster.

 

When keepers stay until 5:30PM, they’re called “closers.” Closers always work in teams of 2 and are in charge of doing the final animal checks, feeding the critters dinner, and locking everything up for the evening. This past week, Sherry stepped in to close because we’ve been a bit short-handed in the department. There’s a running joke in the department that when Sherry closes with you, you’ll have to do all the work and she’ll sit in her office with her feet up. For the record, I’ve closed with Sherry many times and never once has she sat around with her feet up. However, the joke continues on and she’s a really good sport about it.

 

At 5:03, Kent had clocked out for the night to go home but he and I were hanging around in the office chatting when Sherry walks in and asks him to stay and close for her because she had other boss things to be doing –that’s not really what she said. I don’t actually remember the reason so I mentally filed it into the “boss things” category–. Kent agrees, Sherry heads off to do her boss things, and Kent walks into Sherry’s office to help close.

Kent closing, like a boss.

 

 

Join the conversation:

  1. Director Comment :

    Thanks for the shout-out. So, the real reasons why I don’t put my feet up on my desk:
    1. my desk is typically too messy to find a space.
    2. you know where our shoes have been… I don’t want that on my desk…
    I’ll have to disinfect that section of desk where Kent’s feet were!

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  2. Kent looks good as a supervisor!

    Posted by Katy

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by , Keeper
I graduated from NCSU(go pack) and have worked in the animal department for about 8 years. Some of my favorites include ferrets and birds. I am also known for my weird obsession with Boba Fett.
I work Tuesday-Saturday in either the Farmyard or inside the main building behind the scenes.

AAZK Conference for 2013

October 13th, 2013

Last year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the American Association of Zookeepers conference.

This year, a lot of us keepers were very lucky to be able to attend because it was held in North CarolinaKeeper Sarah and I were also lucky, because we were selected to present a paper this year. The topic was on enrichment and focused on inexpensive or free options. Even though I was presenting, it was said that Sarah was much more nervous then I, but all went well.

Special thanks goes out to Wendy for helping us with our professional looking power point! Luckily, Sherry signed me up for a course in this years conference that taught a lot about power point presentations and I think I finally have a good grasp of it.

 

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by , Director
I've been at the Museum sooooo long - longer than many of our interns have been alive. I do a little bit of everything as part of my job: care for the animals, work with the keepers and other staff, spend time with guests. Lucky me!
I spend a lot of time behind-the-scenes, or here after hours, but if you really want to see me, you'll have to sign-up for a behind-the-scenes program.

What not to wear

October 2nd, 2013

So you know we can get dirty: clothes stained, shoes covered in mud and poop, the list actually goes on and on. Work in the bear yard can be challenging. It’s hard to even see your feet when walking in the bear yard the grass is so tall. If you don’t step in a pile of poop you are lucky. I’ve even had to “swim” in the bear pool, so I never wear traditional business attire. Last week we had a great group of folks from Biogen Idec working hard in the bear yard (scooping, mowing, removing weeds, pruning, clearing fences…). They all came dressed in clothes ready to work.

Our development folks on the other had… Well, let’s just say I had to mow a path so they could walk into the yard.

Here’s my new rule: no pumps in the bear yard! (and let me add I never thought I would be writing about the kind of pumps you wear on your feet, just the kind that move and filter water and cause more frustration that humor!)

Alicia and Ro: dressed to avoid helping!

Join the conversation:

  1. I wish we had an emoticon to roll my eyes on this blog

    Posted by Jill
  2. But darn do we look good!!!

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  3. I wore heels to the bear yard plenty of times. It’s all about knowing how to walk in them.

    Posted by Leslie

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

Zookeeper Appreciation Week

July 24th, 2013

 

Thanks to Sherry, Aaron, Katy, Kent, Marilyn, Jill, Sarah and Jessi for all your hard work and dedication.

Zookeepers have an amazingly rewarding job that can also be physically demanding and once a year we all deserve a little pat on the back!

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