Which animal do you think weighs more?
Gus, the black bear
Lightning, the donkey
Post your guesses in the comment section!
When I first started working here at the museum, I was told a very useful piece of advice from Kristen: “if you ever fall into the muskrat pool, toss your radio somewhere dry as you fall…radios are really expensive.” The last person I know of that fell into the pool was Larry and I have no idea if he saved his radio; it was before my time. While I’m sure you’d all love to laugh at me for falling into our muskrat pool, you’ll have to wait for another day. This adventure was strictly for my radio:
Lightning loves to grab tools and toys from keepers and play games with them. His antics caused of death of my first radio, so I’ve made a huge effort to keep my communication devices away from his prehensile lips ever since. This time, my radio made it through without even a tooth mark on the antenna. Needless to say, I was quite thankful.
This past Thursday our Farmyard veterinarians were here to check on the critters. Dr. Cannedy and Dr. Mozzachio arrived early on the chilly Thursday morning. Full physicals will occur in April, but Lightning needed some blood taken to see how his Cushing’s disease is progressing. While here, our old goat Chummix got checked out and so were the pigs. Miss Piggy looks great according to Dr. Mozzachio, but she took photos so she could compare body condition in a month or so. Chummix had blood drawn as well as he continues to lose weight and his eating habits have become pickier and picker.
In February, I posted about our opossum Sonny going for a walk. In March, Sonny went for another stroll and this time he made it all the way up to the farmyard.
Many of the animals at the museum live with another animal of a different specie. They might live together because they seem to like each other or because they don’t bother one another and fit the exhibit well (large exhibits with 1 animal are pretty boring if that one animal doesn’t want to be in sight of guests). Some of the animals we have together are a donkey and dwarf goats, a steer and a boer goat, a pine snake and a greenish rat snake, a watersnake and a mud turtle, and a spotted turtle and a painted turtle. In the wild, different kinds of animals interact all the time. Those interactions are called symbiosis.
Symbiosis (pronounced: sym-BY-OH-sis or sym-BEE-OH-sis) can be defined as prolonged interactions between different species of animals and/or plants which benefits or harms at least one of the individuals involved.
There are 4 different types of symbiosis: Mutualism, Commensalism, Parasitism and Amensalism.
++ Mutualism- An interaction is mutualistic when both species involved are benefiting from the relationship. As an example, my dog and I have a mutualistic relationship. He gets food, water, shelter, exercise and companionship from me and I get companionship, a jogging buddy, and a personal foot warmer in the winter, from him.
+0 Commensalism- A relationship where one species benefits while the other is unaffected. An example could be Lightning, the donkey, and the Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Rocky and Patches. While, Lightning may get some amount of companionship from the two little goats, he generally seems unaffected when he is separated from them. It feels to me as though he has a fairly neutral attitude towards them. The little goats, however, are highly affected when apart from Lightning (screaming and bleating and acting very anxious). They likely have a herd leader and a protector in Lightning and are positively affected when he’s around.
+- Parasitism- Parasites come in all forms! The easy ones are ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers, and any other blood/skin sucking bug. However, other plants and animals can be considered parasites as well (Cowbirds, Cukoos, Mistletoe). So long as one species in the relationship is negatively affected while the other is positively affected, a parasitic relationship is at hand. Because ticks are one of Marilyn’s favorite animals, I’ll add this picture just for her:
0- Amensalism- If commensalism is a neutral/positive (0+) relationship, its opposite is amensalism, a neutral/negative (0-) relationship. Of the 4 types of symbiosis, this is by far the rarest. Amensalism requires that one species be negatively impacted while another is not being impacted at all. The text book examples of this are Penicillin mold growing on stale bread and the Black Walnut tree. Ranger Greg was kind enough to look for some of these trees for me (a more pleasant option than waiting for some bread to mold), which he found just off the Dinosaur Trail. Black Walnut trees secrete a toxin into the soil as a natural part of their growth that inhibits or kills off plants that would otherwise grow near the tree. The smaller plants are negatively impacted, while the Black Walnut tree just keeps on growing.
Many of the animals and plants on grounds have symbiotic relationships with other plants and animals nearby. Stop by the butterfly house and gardens to find some really cool relationships or find Ranger Greg and ask him about some of his favorites!
This is Sarah. She’s been a keeper with us since July 2010. You’re going to learn more about her soon as she will start writing posts, although you can view her amazing writing skills by clicking here.
Sarah is a Northerner and moved down here from Connecticut to work at the Museum. Her bachelor’s degree is from the University of Rhode Island in Wildlife Conservation Biology. She worked at science museums and sanctuaries in New England, taking care of many of the same animals she cares for here, and doing TONS of programs with kids. If you have a chance to attend a program Sarah leads please do so-she’s like a walking encyclopedia of animal facts.
She has recently began working with our manned hawk and owl. It’s no surprise that she took to it so quickly. She’s comfortable not only handling the birds but also managing the crowds and sharing a wealth of information.
My favorite random tidbits about Sarah are that she coached crew (although I am sure she will correct me on my terminology) and that she’s a phenomenal cello player (I’ve seen her and former keeper Erin Brown play a couple times together).
One of our Master Teachers shared this photo with me. Any thoughts on what the two might be conversing about? (Remember the photo of Lightning and Max?)
Did you know that there are equine dentists?! That is correct, there are dentists out there that specialize in equine. Although the field back then was not as advanced as today with technology and equipment, the upkeep of a horse was very important just like a oil change is to a car. Remember, people depended on their animals for transportation and labor and the better the care the longer the animals lasted and the better their general health.
Recently, Lightning had a visit from Dr. Cannedy who is his general vet and Dr. Gerard who specializes in Equine Surgery.His teeth were given a good examination.
A special halter is put on Lightning with a mouth speculum so the vet is able to work in his mouth without the donkey being able to close it.
Lightning got his teeth “floated” which means they smooth his teeth with a file so they are nice and even. If equine are not examined and proper care of their teeth are not taken, it can lead to problems with eating and comfort because the teeth can become jagged and develop sharp edges. This floating does not hurt because the nerve is near the gum line.
The tool that is used on Lightning is electric powered and has a file like bit at the end of it that grinds the tooth down.
Our Farrier was in last week to check on Lightning‘s hooves. A farrier is someone who specializes in the care of the hooves of horses, donkeys, and other equines. They make sure hooves are trimmed evenly and are healthy. Farriers also can shoe a horse or donkey if needed. Good hoof care helps to prevent abscesses in the foot. Abscesses (a collection or pocket of pus or infection in an area) can occur when a small particular of sand of stone gets where it shouldn’t.
Ron comes about every six weeks to check out Lightning’s hooves. He brings his specialized tool set. (think of a manicure set for people, but MUCH BIGGER)