Author Archive

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.

Pumpkin enrichment

January 16th, 2013

In the fall we receive A LOT of donated pumpkins that are used in the animal department. Some animals eat them, some animals play with them, and some animals don’t really do anything with them.

Our muskrats really like to eat pumpkin, so we give it to them sometimes as enrichment or as a substitute for another vegetable in their daily diet. In an effort to use some of the many pumpkins that we had, I decided to do both.

We usually only give the muskrats pieces of pumpkin at a time, so I had to substitute several of their vegetables for one day in order to give them an entire pumpkin. I decided to clean it out and put their daily food inside.

I thought it would be best to only put half their food inside the pumpkin so that they wouldn’t fight over the pumpkin once they realized their food was inside.

So I placed the pumpkin, lid on, in the exhibit and scattered the remaining food for them to find (we do that daily.)

I thought they would probably go directly to the pumpkin to check it out, but they actually seemed  a bit apprehensive about it.

After several minutes of keeping their distance from the pumpkin and eating the scattered food around the exhibit, they started to creep up to it to check it out but would then run away.

I finally decided to take the lid off the pumpkin in an effort to help them realize that this big round orange thing was something good and yummy. At that point I had to go clean the rest of the exhibits, so I left them to continue checking it out. When I came back about 30 minutes later, I found this…

Yep, that’s right, the muskrats had dragged the pumpkin into their pool. It was floating upside down, waterlogged but surprisingly with most of the original food still in it. I drained out the water and placed it back on the floor of the exhibit with the rest of their diet still in it.

When I came back later I found the pumpkin moved back to the water’s edge, but this time there was a big chunk eaten from it.

Then I looked over at their den area and saw that they had taken the top of the pumpkin and put it at the window for everyone to see, along with some of their other veggies. They do this with their diet a lot, and it makes it pretty convenient for the visitors to get a look at all their food. I enjoyed putting this enrichment togther for them, and it was neat to see what they did with it throughout the day!

 

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  1. ….think this could be part of the 2013 New Year’s Resolution list….the Museum’s awesome keepers will help you overcome your fears of unusual veggies.

    Posted by dj

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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.

QuikPost: Ah, that refreshing watermelon

July 27th, 2012

Only 7 days away from National Watermelon Day! Personally, I’m glad there is a day for everyone to celebrate watermelon. I think it is one of the most refreshing foods you can eat on a hot summer day. Many of our animals seem to find it refreshing (or at least enjoyable), as well.

Check out the video below of some of our indoor animals (and maybe even a keeper) enjoying some yummy watermelon. And don’t worry, Sherry, I put the keeper up to these shenanigans. She doesn’t always steal the animals’ watermelon!;)

Make sure to visit the museum next Friday, August 3rd so that you can see our animals in action as they gobble down some juicy and delightful watermelons at many of the keeper programs that will be held that day.

YouTube Preview Image

Join the conversation:

  1. Awesome video! Makes me want some yummy watermelon. Good job Marilyn!

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  2. Keeper Comment :

    Thanks Ro.;)

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson
  3. MJ- just sprinkle a little mealworm dust over that watermelon to keep the keepers from stealing it. :)

    Posted by Kristen
  4. Director Comment :

    How the heck to Jessi not get watermelon juice on her shirt?

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  5. hahahahah that was fantastic!

    Posted by Kimberly
  6. Keeper Comment :

    Very true, Kristen!;) And Sherry, Jessi said she actually did have the juice all over her face and clothes but the camera hid it well. Fortunately we shot the video at the end of the day so she didn’t have to go outside much after that.

    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.

Forget the porridge, give me cotton candy!

July 1st, 2012

Every Thursday the animal department staff (along with any volunteers or museum staff that can tolerate the keepers) go to lunch together somewhere off campus. Occasionally we splurge and go to Golden Corral. A few weeks ago some of the keepers noticed there was blue cotton candy in the dessert section. We decided to take all the cotton candy they had (of course, we waited until we were on our way out to snag it all) so that we could see if our bears would like it!

Now, we wouldn’t just give our bears cotton candy for no good reason. There is, in fact, a method to our cotton candy madness. You see, often times when we give our animals medicine we have to disguise it in something yummy that they like to eat (you can read more about this in Jill’s post here.)

Mimi, currently our oldest bear, is especially hard to please when it comes to taking medicine. It seems no matter how much we try to disguise her meds with the yummiest of treats, she always knows when we’re up to no good and she refuses to take them.  Sherry thought that maybe cotton candy could be added to the list of things that our bears would love and would be willing to take their meds with.

This is not a treat that they would receive very often, but considering it’s just a little bit of sugar and a lot of air, it seems like a decent treat to try. So we grabbed the cotton candy and ran some taste tests with all the bears to see if they would like it. Watch the video and decide for yourself!

YouTube Preview Image

 

Join the conversation:

  1. Do the bears get their teeth brushed like the ferrets?

    Posted by Wendy
  2. Director Comment :

    It’s much harder to brush a bear’s teeth than the teeth of ferrets. The keepers will eventually work “teeth brushing” into the operant conditioning routine. We’ll definitely take video of that!

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  3. there is so much about this post that i like, marilyn. everything from walking out of golden corral with all of the blue cotton candy…to watching the bears (oh i miss those bears) nosh on the goods…to the end credits. great post! thank you.

    Posted by Leiana
  4. Keeper Comment :

    Thanks Leiana! This was a fun post to do and watching the bears eat the cotton candy for the first time was quite enjoyable.:)

    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.

QuikPost: hoarders

April 19th, 2012
YouTube Preview Image

The last couple of days we have been watching our muskrats closely because we were concerned one of them may have been acting a bit lethargic. So you can imagine what a pleasant surprise it was to see them both running around the exhibit early this morning!

Most of our visitors that come regularly usually only see our muskrats sleeping in their wooden house. That’s because they tend to be most active in the morning (at least for the time in which we are here), after they have been fed by the keepers. Our muskrats aren’t too keen on getting close to the keepers, so they wait until we leave the exhibit and then come out to see what kind of food they have been given for the day. Then they get busy eating and hoarding! Yes, that’s right, our muskrats will stock pile their food in their wooden house. Which is actually quite smart of them, because it means if they wake up during the day and are hungry, they have their meal right next to them instead of having to go out into the exhibit and bring it back.

I managed to get some of the hoarding on video, and it’s quite cute! Clearly, one of the muskrats likes to collect the food in the house, while the other muskrat has a specific spot at the edge of their pool where he enjoys eating.

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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.

Trash anyone?

February 10th, 2012

From left to right: wolf exhibit, bear exhibit, farmyard exhibits, lemur exhibit.

Anyone who has been in the animal keeping profession knows that part of the job includes the unfortunate task of pulling trash out of the animal exhibits. On some level it is expected that a random object will occasionally be found in an animal’s enclosure, due to a visitor accidentally dropping something and not being able to recover it (please don’t try to retrieve the item yourself!). However, we have noticed the amount of trash in the exhibits increase significantly over the last couple of years.

By far, we find the most trash in the farmyard exhibits.

Keeper Katy focuses in the vet area of the animal department, so she is notified whenever anything is found in an exhibit so that we can put a “watch” on the animal for behavioral changes in case it ingested part of the item/food/trash. Since the keepers started finding items more frequently, Katy decided to start saving all the trash to see just how much was collected over the course of 2011.

The amount of trash in these pictures might astonish you, but what’s even more astonishing is that Katy didn’t start saving the items until the Spring of 2011.  So there’s a good four months worth of trash not included in these pictures. On top of that, there were times that the keepers forgot to keep the items for Katy, so those weren’t added to the bags either. I know there were at least three occasions where I forgot to save the trash for Katy, and I threw it away after pulling it from the enclosure.

The contents in this picture are a prime example of why we don't allow balloons on grounds. The outcome could have been very bad if one of our bears had ingested the helium balloon you see in the bag on the right.

There are times when a visitor accidentally drops something in an exhibit and they find a museum staff member to let them know. This is the best thing to do because the staff member will radio the keepers, and it allows us to remove the article from the exhibit as soon as possible.

Above: Here’s a closer look at some of the items we found in the farmyard. The mangled Mountain Dew can you see to the right came from the donkey and goat yard, and clearly it had been chewed on and ripped up by one or all of them. Worrisome for the keepers!

Here’s my personal favorite, and it was found in Lightning the donkey’s stall one morning. Unfortunately it was mixed in with some of his hay and could have been ingested fairly easily. It’s a hair attachment with feathers, and Kent saved this one and has it hanging up above his desk.

It’s nice to see that when our visitors are eating chips and drinking soda, they are trying to be healthy about it. However, these items are not healthy for our animals, even if they are “baked” or “diet”!

Katy has already started collecting exhibit trash for 2012, so watch for the blog post in early 2013 to see what we collected over the course of this year.

 

Join the conversation:

  1. It’s not just things being dropped in that are worrisome. Some of our animals will steal things from guests right off the railings or even from their hands! I rescued many applesauce coated toddler spoons from the donkey and goats last summer and the pigs have stolen plastic snack baggies right through the fencing. I like to ask guests to stand an arms’ length away from the fences if they have food or drinks, just to be safe.

    Posted by Sarah

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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.

QuikPost: Pranksters

January 31st, 2012

Once again, this is what happens when you leave your locker open and then leave for the day…

It looks like pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down was stuffed into Aaron's locker.

 

We are definitely a group of pranksters around here. Check out some other posts about the pranks we’ve pulled.

http://blogs.lifeandscience.org/keepers/2011/08/19/come-to-the-dark-side-we-have-cookies/

http://blogs.lifeandscience.org/keepers/2011/01/12/fun-with-a-fake-sheep/

http://blogs.lifeandscience.org/keepers/2010/08/22/quik-postphone-messages/

http://blogs.lifeandscience.org/keepers/2009/06/26/why-you-should-never-go-on-vacation/

OK, this one isn’t a prank, but it’s a darn good post!  http://blogs.lifeandscience.org/keepers/2008/08/28/summer-breeze-makes-me-feel-fine/

 

 

Join the conversation:

  1. I’ve started collecting stuff for the next open locker!!!

    Posted by Katy
  2. Keeper Comment :

    This was by far the most bonding experience between keepers and so much fun!

    Posted by Kimberly Lawson

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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.

Just a dream

January 13th, 2012

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you already know that the animal department has been under a lot of construction for a while now. We’ve added a new extension to the building, gotten our kitchen remodeled, had new flooring installed to part of our hall, and most recently we have installed a large walk-in freezer.

Now, I say “most recently” very loosely. Why, you might ask?  Because the freezer parts have actually been here since September of last year, and were (mostly) assembled in October. Since then, the keepers have been waiting *patiently* for the freezer to be finished and running. As for now, it is just a pretty object that we get to look at every day as a distant dream of something that might be of use to us some time in the probably-not-near future.

The reason for the wait is because of the electrical work that needs to be finished. The freezer will be hooked up to a generator so that we can keep all of our frozen food safe during a power outage. This walk-in freezer is huge (approximately nine by fifteen feet), and once it is working it will actually replace four large chest freezers and another large standing freezer full of food that we currently have scattered throughout the department support hall and in (what will eventually be) our new surgery room. We will also move all of the 40 and 50 pound bags of unopened food we currently keep on metal shelves into the walk-in.  That’s a lot of food, so having the new freezer attached to a back-up generator is a big deal for us!

Once the electrical work is finally done (Sherry says it will all be completed in 3 weeks. Bwahahahaha!!!), the freezer roof will be added and we will start setting up the shelves and moving everything out of the old freezers and into the walk-in. Then a long chain of events will happen to eventually get our support hall back to normal…. which some of the keepers have never even experienced! (Keeper Aaron was hired 12 months ago and Keeper Kimberly started here 15 months ago and all they have ever known is the department being under construction!) At some point when all of this is done, our new surgery room will be usable, our old quarantine room will be a new computer work room, and our support hall will be free of clutter. Oh, what a dream!

Look at how pretty and shiny it is!

 

Inside the freezer. You can see the freezer doesn't have a roof on it.

 

 

The other side of the freezer. It's so big!

 

 

Here's two of the chest freezers on the support hall...

 

 

And here's the other two chest freezers...

 

And here's our large standing freezer that holds our many many boxes of mice and rats, which are used for our birds of prey, red wolves, snakes and other critters like opossums.

 

Join the conversation:

  1. “…and our support hall will be free of clutter”

    I’ll believe that when I see photograhic proof!

    Posted by LarryB

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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.

What a prize!

January 4th, 2012

If you visit the museum often, you will soon notice the “new” yellow horse trailer sitting at the entrance of the farmyard. The trailer is not new literally, but it is new to us!  And it was actually given to us as a donation after keeper Sarah did lots of searching on line and in the papers.

We have never had a trailer of this size, but now that we do it will open up a world of opportunities for us to transport our large hoofstock to veterinary facilities or for other animal transfers. The trailer needed a few repairs, and a new paint job, before it could be moved to the farmyard. But now that we have it back from being painted, the farmyard animals will soon start being trained to walk into the trailer and, eventually, travel in it.

The trailer is sitting across from the donkey and goat yard, so they already have the chance to look at it daily and get accustomed to it. According to Sherry, she’s never seen Lightning’s ears move in so many different directions as what they did when he was watching this trailer being moved in!

The fence to the donkey and goat yard is in the background.

 

 

Join the conversation:

  1. Good day, This Health/Vet Animal Department article is swell, totally appreciate your articles

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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.

QuikPost: Just a little newspaper and flour…

December 12th, 2011

Throughout the year, the animal department has groups of people from different places that want to come volunteer their time with us for a few hours… kind of like community service. Often times these groups (usually anywhere from 6 to 20 people) are from various schools or colleges in the area. The group projects may consist of doing anything from mulching the farmyard to cleaning enrichment toys at the bear house. Our most recent group project was based around making enrichment items as opposed to cleaning them. We use paper mache balloons with some of our animals as a way to hide treats. After we put the treats in, the animals must roll the paper mache around or tear it open to the treat. This is our first time ever making paper mache traffic cones, so we’ll see how they turn out!

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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.

QuikPost: Mikey’s desk is clean!!

November 7th, 2011

Being that we are animal keepers, you can probably imagine we spend far more time cleaning our animals’ spaces than we do cleaning our own. At work our space is the Animal Department office, and you can see from the picture below that it is a bit disheveled! However, you also have to keep in mind that there are six of us who share a space that is approximately 10 feet by 18 feet in size!

Believe it or not, there is actually order to this chaos...

Some of the keepers’ desks tend to stay a bit tidier than others, and since all of our desks are really just one long desk split six ways, it’s a fact of life that we just have to accept how tidy (or untidy) our neighbors decide to be.

Today I walked into the office, and Mikey proudly pointed out that he had actually cleaned his desk! I was astonished and told him it was worthy of a blog post. :) (That smiley is for you Mikey…)  Now, if we can only convince his NEIGHBOR to clean HER desk (ahem, Jill) that will be the blog post of the year!!

Mikey's desk nice and clean! (He rewarded himself with a piece of candy!)

 

Aaaand Jill's desk next to Mikey's. But as long as it makes sense to Jill, that's all that matters!

 

 

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  1. Jill’s desk looked tidier than normal today- I guess that’s clean for her

    Posted by Kimberly

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