Posts Tagged ‘science’

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.

traveling companions

November 18th, 2012

I was chatting with someone recently about my trip to Ohio to pick up our new red wolf, # 1414.  Afterwards,  I began thinking of what other animals I have shared my vehicle with.  Here’s a partial list of my travel companions over the years.

  • red wolves. Besides the Ohio pick up, last month Aaron and I had our road trip to Atlanta to get #1369 on his plane out to Tacoma.   WV and NY were probably the longest trips, each over 500 miles each direction. Many years ago I met keepers from Florida on  I-95 in Georgia and did a wolf exchange at a gas station.   (Click here to see a video of former keepers Kristen and Cassidy picking up a former red wolf – 1227- from the airport.
  • black bears- Gus  and Yona, to be specific. I almost didn’t make it back with Gus as the Wildlife Official transferring Gus from his crate to mine was a bit casual. Volunteer Annie was with me and almost had a heart attack. Yona was transferred to my van in the parking lot of WalMart in Johnson City, Tennessee.
  • saltwater fish (I’ve probably made 5 trips to the beach over the years for fish, and then to airports to get them. We don’t have saltwater fish on exhibit anymore, so no more beach trips).
  • snakes- I picked up a couple a few years ago from the Dan Nicholas Park Nature Center.
  • Alligators: Former Keepers Daniel and Larry did most of the Florida Alligator exchanges, but I’ve had 8 alligators share my ride to and from South Carolina.

The list goes on and on: woodchuck, opossums, owls, hawks, lemurs, bobcat, raccoon, goats… I wonder what animal will be next???

 

Join the conversation:

  1. How old was Gus at that time? I wish I had a photo from the last bear feeding I attended when Gus was upright on the gate behind you. His paws and height are so impressive!!

    Posted by dj
  2. Director Comment :

    DJ: We picked Gus up in July. He was about 6 months old (less than 40 pounds too). It is amazing when he stands up tall!!

    Posted by Sherry Samuels

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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: heading out…

August 21st, 2011

I’m leaving  (very early) tomorrow morning to fly to San Diego for this year’s AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) conference. The San Diego Zoo is hosting it this year. The conference lasts 5 days, and 3 days of that is an intense agenda of presentations by zookeepers, curators, conservationists and other renowned individuals in the zoo keeping field from around the world, along with several workshops spanning virtually any topic you could wish to learn about as an animal keeper.

I’ll make sure to come back with pictures to share, along with information about things that I learned. If you want to hear a little of what it’s like to be a presenter at the conference, you can click here to read about Kristen’s trip to Philadelphia last year where she did a presentation on our keeper blog!

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  1. Have fun! I can’t wait to see the pictures!

    Posted by Shawntel

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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.

Red wolf pups: it might happen!

April 7th, 2011

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading the blog for a while, knows that I have a great passion for red wolves.  After breeding season was over, I was sure that our female was pregnant. Being that we (the keepers) like to pick on each other and give one another a hard time about anything possible, I have withstood much teasing and joking from my co-workers… and as always I have appreciated their humor!

Despite the fact that most people did not think she was pregnant, we have still kept close watch for different behaviors from both the male and female. Some of the things we noticed in the last month were the female starting to bury food (which is not an abnormal behavior for red wolves, but is a new behavior that we have witnessed for her), the male paying more attention and being more nurturing towards the female, the female being hungrier in the morning, a couple of times she was found in one of the man-made dens (again, a new behavior for her that we have witnessed), and the female has also been digging large holes in the side of the exhibit’s cliff (this would be an indication of digging a shallow den).

The latest behavior that has occurred in the past three days is the fact that she has now pulled out her belly hair. According to Sherry, this is usually a good indicator that she will be having pups soon because she is making her nipples more accessible for suckling. This most recent behavior seems to have swayed most people towards the fact that she actually is pregnant, but it is still not definite. There is always the possibility of a pseudo-pregnancy, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that this will be the real thing!

In preparation for this event, I decided to take a poll from everyone to see when they think she will have the pups, how many she will have, and the sexes of the pups. The tally is below. The numbers that you see are going to be “zoo lingo”, and the first number is the number of males and the second number is the number of females. There can also be a third number, which would be of unknown sex (some animals are more difficult to sex than others. It’s not always obvious depending on the species). So for example, “3.2″ would be 3 males and 2 females, for a total of 5 pups. Feel free to chime in your own guess in the comment section! Mikey and I also got some good pictures of one of the potential dens that the female seems to have concentrated on the most and has made impressively large and deep. Take a look!

Mikey- April 10th- 2.1

Kimberly- April 11th- 0.3

Jill- April 9th- 1.2

Aaron- April 10th- 4.3

Sarah- April 10th- 0.2

Marilyn- April 7th- 3.1

Annie  (volunteer)- April 9th- 2.3

Karyn (volunteer/ blogger)- April 8th- 1.2

Sherry- April 12th- 2.1

Greg (Explore the Wild ranger)- April 9th- 3.3

Katy- April 12th- 2.3

Kent- April 17th- 0.1

Kristen- April 10th- 3.2

Erin- she’s not pregnant

This is the "potential den" that the female wolf has dug out the most. As you can see, it's pretty deep.!

This is a closer look at the same den so that you can see the depth. Being that she is digging on the side of a cliff, she ran into a lot of large rocks.

This is a good look deep inside the den, and you can see the remnance of large roots that she chewed and pulled away to make space. Pretty impressive!

This is a long root that we found just outside the den that looked to have been ripped away by the female. I was amazed!

This is one of the ends of that same long root, and it has clearly been ripped out. The other end looked similar, so it seems as though this may have been caused by a wolf.

This is what the den looks like from a distance. It can be seen easily from the exhibit overlook.

This is another hole she started on the side of the cliff, but as you can see she ran into a lot of rocks.

This is the first hole we found over three weeks ago.

Join the conversation:

  1. What do we get for winning?? By the way, it looks like you’re saying I’m not pregnant, not that I think that the wolf’s not pregnant. But I’m not pregnant either.

    Posted by Erin Brown
  2. I think Sherry & Kent have an advantage since they were here last time the Museum had pups. And, it seems they BOTH have predicted a much longer wait than anyone else. Do they know something?

    Posted by Karyn
  3. Based on the fact that wolf pups seem to come at the most disadvantageous times, I’m going to say she’ll give birth the morning of Robot Rumble (April 16). :-)

    Posted by Leslie
  4. Director Comment :

    Leslie- that’s what I am thinking now- pups on the 16th. http://www.ncmls.org/visit/events/robot-rumble

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  5. @ Erin: The prize for winning is a pat on the back and acknowledgement in the follow-up blog post. And true, it does sound that way! haha! I should have put the “she’s not pregnant” in quotation marks, but now it’s funny to read it that way so I’m not going to change it.;)

    @ Karyn: Yes, Sherry and Kent have more experience, but they don’t know anything more than the rest of us. Sherry has filled all the keepers in on her knowledge of red wolf pregnancies, and Kent doesn’t really think she looks big enough to be carrying pups, so I still don’t think he’s convinced.

    @Leslie: We actually all joked about that at lunch today… that the pups will come on Robot Rumble day!

    Posted by Marilyn
  6. Oooh, I hope she does! I have no idea on pup numbers, but I’ll guess April 24th, because it’s my son’s birthday and he’d love to have baby wolves born then (he’ll be 3).

    Posted by Libby
  7. what a great post with awesome pictures, marilyn. how exciting for you guys, either way! i’ve got my mind on april 14th 3.1.

    Posted by Leiana
  8. If she does deliver pups, will they stay in the den she made? We also need to have a “baby puppy shower” for her!!!!!

    Posted by DJ
  9. Keeper Comment :

    @ Libby and Leiana: Thanks for your guesses! And Leiana, I said 3.1 as well, but was clearly wrong about the date or she would have had them yesterday!

    @ DJ: Thanks for your question! We can’t be sure where she is going to decide to have her pups, or nurse them once they are born. There are two different man-made dens in the exhibit that are set up for her to use if she so desires, but she may decide that this large den she made will be better. There is always a chance that she could give birth to her puppies in one den, and then move them to another den. This would be a natural behavior for a mama wolf in the wild to move her pups to a new location if she felt it would be safer for them elsewhere.

    And yes, a baby puppy shower sounds fabulous to me!:)

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson
  10. Hey Marilyn, after considerable thought, I’d like to change my prediction (guess) to “sometime within the next few weeks” and “some of each?”

    Posted by Ranger Greg
  11. I’m guessing April 13th – 1.3 :)

    Posted by Colet
  12. April 18th 1:2, not that I have a clue and Sarah hasn’t provided me with any insight

    Posted by Hans
  13. I’ll be my usual pessimistic self and vote 0.0

    Posted by LarryB
  14. Keeper Comment :

    @ Colet, Hans, and Larry: thanks for your guesses! Larry, I hope your pessimistic self is wrong!

    @ Ranger Greg: if you had changed your guess to something REASONABLE, I would have accepted it. However, the guess of “at some point” and “some of each” is not a valid guess! In fact, some may even call it cheating!;)

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson
  15. Keeper Comment :

    At this point I dont care anymore, I am just so excited.

    Posted by Jill Brown
  16. Any pup news? I keep checking the blog and Facebook. Waiting with bated breath!

    Posted by Jamie
  17. Keeper Comment :

    Hi Jamie,

    Unfortunately nothing yet. But we are still checking daily to see if there are any pups to report. Keep your fingers crossed, and I assure you we will post something on the blog as soon as anything changes!

    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.

The trials, tribulations, and benefits of red wolf fostering

February 23rd, 2011

Well, we are currently at the height of the breeding season for red wolves. I figured since I haven’t done a post about red wolves in a while, I would write about the fostering program. Fostering takes red wolves born at captive red wolf Species Survival Plan(SSP) institutions and relocates them to wild red wolves out at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR). Both the captive and wild red wolves are crucial parts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Red Wolf Recovery Program (RWRP).

Red wolf pup

Fostering is important because it not only increases the wild population, but it also helps to keep the genetic diversity as high as possible. If you remember from a previous post, genetic diversity is a constant battle when managing the red wolf breeding program.

There are many variables that have to fall neatly into place for a successful foster to occur. To start, red wolf field biologists must be able to follow the movements and actions of a wild, radio-collared female wolf and try to determine if she is pregnant. Now maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but read the post I wrote a while back on red wolf field biologists and you may gain a new appreciation for what a large feat this is.

Red wolf pups with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist

Similarly, captive facilities are monitoring their own wolves and are assessing whether females are pregnant and when they think births will occur. Again, this may sound fairly easy, but it’s not! It requires diligence in observing breeding pairs and noticing behavioral changes that may indicate that a female wolf is pregnant. (I.e nesting behaviors, pulling out belly hair to prepare for suckling, etc).

So, the platform is now set for, well, maybe, a possible foster. If a wild wolf has a litter around the same time as a captive wolf, the plan now becomes a possibility. The wolf in the wild also has to have a small litter, and the captive wolf has to have a large enough litter that the parents are not left “pupless”. Communication and transportation arrangements also need to be ideal.

These red wolf field biologists are weighing a pup from a litter after locating the mother's den.

But I say that there is potential for a foster to take place, because it still isn’t “in the bag” so to speak. The captive born pup (or foster pup) must be placed with its new wild mother before its eyes open, so that the only thing the pup ever knows is the wild surroundings it is in. That means there is only a two week window for the swap to occur!

A week old red wolf pup with its eyes still closed

The brunt of the work to make a successful swap falls on the field biologists. They must track the wild mother, and once they locate where she is denning with her new litter, they must quickly insert the foster pup into the den while the mother is away. Again, not an easy task! Often times the field biologists find that after they locate the wild mother’s den, in the time it takes them to go get the foster pup and bring it back, the wild mother has relocated to a new den and is nowhere to be found! How frustrating!

When the field biologists do luck out, and the mother has not relocated by the time they arrive with the foster pup, they wait until she leaves the den temporarily and then place the pup into the den with the others. They will rub the wild born pups against the foster pup to make it smell like them. This technique increases the chances of the mother accepting the foster pup as her own. If you notice in the picture above, the biologists make sure to wear gloves when handling the pups so they also do not transfer their smell onto them.

Red wolf pups, about two weeks old, located in a shallow den

There has been amazing success with this technique when everything actually falls into place! The wild mother either doesn’t seem to realize, or doesn’t seem to care, that there is now an extra unrelated pup in her litter. She raises the foster pup as if it were her own and the new pup becomes an important addition to the wild population!

With red wolf births starting in as little as a month from now, there could be a foster in the near future. We will be getting in touch with Will Waddell, the RWSSP coordinator, periodically to get updates on any fosters that take place this year. If there is, I will make sure to post about it. In the mean time, keep your fingers crossed for our two red wolves, who are a potential breeding pair. We haven’t noticed any mating so far, but just because we don’t witness it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. We will find out in about a month if we have pups!

It doesn't get much cuter than this!

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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.

QuikPost: Manatees

December 23rd, 2010

Former Keeper Larry sent a link to some manatee info. The cold weather in Florida has driven the manatees into the springs and the power plant. Make sure to click the “view the manatees live” link as well.

Join the conversation:

  1. Hey, Keeper Larry!
    I’ve never seen that many manatees all crowded into one place.
    They certainly are impressive animals. Thanks for passing those links on to us, and thanks for posting them Sherry.

    Posted by Ranger Greg

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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.

Canebrake Rattlesnake Tubing

December 10th, 2010

We’re hands-off with our venomous snakes at the Museum. What you see in the photos below is “snake tubing”. Kent is holding the snake tube with the canebrake rattlesnake inside. The tube itself is a hard plastic, about 3 feet in length. The most important factor is the diameter of the tube. You want the diameter of the tube to be only slightly larger than the diameter of the snake. This prevents the snake from being able to turn around in the tube.

It’s a two person job the way we do it here at the Museum. Kent and I do it together. We start by putting the snake into a garbage can. My job is to then hook and encourage the snake into the tube. When the snake is far enough in the tube (when Kent and I both agree that the snake can not jut out backwards) Kent grabs the snake. It’s important that he grab the snake and the end of the tube where the snake is entering. This prevents the snake from being able to move forward or backwards.

At this point, we can now safely get a close up look at the snake, even touching his tail end need be. We have some small slits in the tube as well in case we need to do some poking around in areas closer to the head.

Canebrake and Kent

See a great video of the canebrake rattlesnake shedding.

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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.

QuikPost: Red Wolf Quarterly Report

November 23rd, 2010

Click on the link below to read the quarterly report from the red wolf recovery program. Ask if you have questions!

RedWolf_QtrReport_FY10-04

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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.

Yona’s surgery- it’s over and she is back

September 23rd, 2010

Yona has now been back at the Museum for about 1.5 days now and is recovering from her surgery to remove a bone fragment in her elbow.  Read an article and see better pictures than below by the News & Observer- the photos are way better than mine (see the photo gallery for all the pictures).

A few photos I took are below, as well as a couple of Yona back at the Museum. We’ll keep you posted as to when she will go back on exhibit to be with the rest of the bears.

It was dark when Kent, Katy and I went to crate Yona. You can't see, but Kent is on the right and Katy is on the left.

Yona on the surgery Table

Yona's leg was completely shaved

There’s probably about another month of really good hair growth left before winter sets in. It will be interesting to see how quickly her hair grows in!

the bone fragment had to be removed in pieces- it was too big to come out whole.

Yona has no issues crushing her tub

She is not very hesitant to use that arm!

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  1. Keeper Comment :

    Cute pictures, Sherry! She is quite adorable, even in her stubborn “I don’t wanna take my pill!” kind of way. Watching her roll around playing with toys, and splashing around in her water tub during her recovery has been amusing!

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson

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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.

Cassandra update

August 20th, 2010

It’s about a month since I told you about Cassandra’s brush with death.  She continues to surprise us and is doing really well. Her illness and issues are a mystery. Even after repeated testing I fear we may never know what the initial problem was. I guess this is a good problem to have: that she appears to be fine now.

We took her in last week to for repeat ultrasound and radiographs (x-rays). Everything looked good. Below are some photos of her x-ray photos.

These film are pretty normal looking. We were thrilled that there was no build up of fluid in her chest over the past month. The cool thing to me (seeing as I am not a veterinarian and cannot speak to the detail of the image) is the collar. Our lemurs wear a tracking collar so if they were to ever get out of the exhibit we could track them and find them and get them back.

We continue to pay extra close attention to her. Please keep the positive vibes coming!

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  1. Director Comment :

    Can you see her microchip?
    There’ a view of it in both x-rays.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels

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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.

Red Wolf Transfers

August 5th, 2010

I told you last week I would let you know about wolf stuff that happened at the wolf meeting.  Thanks for being patient.

On the second day of our Red Wolf SSP (Species Survival Plan) Master Plan meeting we look at all the wolves in the captive population (there are 178 at 40 different institutions). You can get a general idea of where the institutions are on the map below.

The goal is to make sure every wolf has a home with a companion and that we make “GOOD” breeding matches for the wolves.  Sarah Long, from AZA’s Population Management Center,  leads us through the match making process. The goal is to not just pair wolves but pair wolves that will give us the best genetic outcome- the best possible gene diversity, the least possible inbreeding… Sarah does it all on her computer, but she passes out a list of the red wolves- males listed down the left and females down the right column. The studbook number, age, and location of the wolves are listed. The wolves at the top are the most important in the sense that they are the least related to all the other wolves. If you look closely you can see that our current two wolves are right at the top (1369, 1227).

You can also see my handwriting  making lines with “hearts”. To cut to the chase, our current wolves have been paired together for two years and have not breed so it is time to find them other mates. If the recommendations from the SSP meeting hold, our male (1369) will stay here and female 1287 who is a 7 year old wolf at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island will come to us. Our female (1227) will head to the NC Zoo and be paired for breeding with a 3 year old make (1606 or 1605- they are brothers and it is unsure at this point which brother she will make her home with)

You can barely see Sarah sitting at her computer. Jay is the man in the red shirt (He’s from the Miller Park Zoo). There are a lot of white pages on the wall with pink and blue post-it notes. Each white page represents an institution and each post it represents a wolf (I am sure you get the pink and blue idea, but if you don’t just ask in the comment section). This paper system is really helpful because as we make good matches we can move the post-its (the wolves) around the room to different institutions and visualize what’s happening and see if somewhere ends up with too many or too few wolves.

By early September we’ll know for sure what the plan is and then we’ll make arrangements to “swap” wolves likely during October when it is cooler. So, pay attention to future posts, and as always, ask if you have questions.

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  1. Roger Williams Park is where Leiana went to work when she left us! What a strange coincidence.

    Posted by Leslie

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