Saturday, April 12, 1997, Turtle Bay Exploration Park (Then Turtle Bay Museums and Arboretum on the River) opened its first new, post-merger attraction, Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp. The free event launched the beginning of the Turtle Bay build out and was the first public physical manifestation of the hard work of The Forest Museum, founded 14 years earlier. The camp also provided a gateway for public access to the Interpretive Forest planted in 1992/1993.
It was a wild day. We estimated that about 5,000 people streamed across the little boardwalk and through the gate in the hours after Paul Bunyan himself (okay, honestly, it was a really tall actor) cut the ribbon. Those first guests walked into a carnival atmosphere. Paul’s famous companion, Babe the Blue Ox, was on site in a big red corral. The Dolbeer Steam Donkey was up and running under the tender care of John Nicoles and Jerry Harmon, who still work with demonstrating two person chainsaws for curious kids. Every available space had an activity set up, and there was plenty of food.
Babe the Blue Ox and our popular Tree Cookie activity on opening day.
It was my 13th day on the Turtle Bay staff. I’d been recruited straight out of grad school to help the Curator of Forestry, Linda Ragsdale, and the Forestry Educator, Jeanne Tomascheski, run the brand new Forest Camp. Almost the entire Turtle Bay staff turned out that day to put on the event, even people whose focus was on our other sites, the Redding Museum of Art and History, Carter House Natural Science Museum, and the Redding Arboretum.
Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp has changed quite a bit. In 1999, we opened the Butterfly House in the Interpretive Forest. In 2000, we moved the camp’s entrance when we opened the Visitor Center – soon to be the Mosaic Restaurant. The animal program re-located from Carter House to the camp in 2002. We started adding animal habitats to the Interpretive Forest five years ago and launched Wildlife Woods.
The original playground and the water area on opening day – before the shade canopy.
Improvements continue. The amphitheater has undergone extensive renovations twice and is getting more shade sails as I type. Over the years, we’ve rebuilt and refurbished the playground until parts were so worn that they had to be removed entirely as part of the extensive renewal project that is taking place in tandem with hotel construction. We are very excited about the new entertaining and educational experiences families will have in the modernized and expanded play area. The first kids to run through the front gate are adults now, and many of them bring their children to Turtle Bay.
It has been an eventful 20 years, both for Turtle Bay and for me. In 2002, I was promoted to Collections Manager and moved out of my Mill Building office and over to the museum’s Collections Facility. In 2007, I relocated to an office in the Museum and took over curatorial duties. When I walk around Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp, the biggest shock for me is the Interpretive Forest. Steady growth sneaks up on you. While gathering images for this blog, I looked at pictures of the trees in 1997 when I began taking kids on tours. Some of the taller trees topped 15 feet, but not many. Today, the Interpretive Forest is visible from a distance!
Who knows what the future holds, but here is to twenty more successful years!
So, Facebook reminded me that February (2/20/17, to be exact), marked the one year anniversary of my first day of volunteering at Turtle Bay’s gardens & greenhouse! My great friend of almost 35 years, Sharon, and I had decided to leap into the volunteer world after a year of “retirement” and agreed that Turtle Bay would be ideal — especially in the nursery. We excitedly attended a volunteer information/recruitment meeting, then later reported for an orientation and interview with Lisa Endicott in the Nursery offices. (We later learned that Lisa is the Horticulture Manager, and here a year later, I have come to learn that she knows the Latin name for every plant, instantaneously. Without fail. She is amazing!)
Anyway, Sharon and I officially reported for duty on 2/20/16. We signed in excitedly in the gardens’ little office, selected our gloves (provided by the nursery) and headed to the greenhouse where we were greeted by Lynne Klocke (world’s best mentor and most patient person EVER). We were agog over the seedlings & plants in every stage of growth in the greenhouse. Lynne quickly put us to work. Our first assignment was… propagation! (Sharon & I looked at each other in astonishment and wonder and, yes… a little fear. What the heck?!) We learned that everything in the Turtle Bay Nursery & Gardens either comes from seeds, or through propagation (Webster’s definition: the breeding of specimens of a plant by root cuttings from the parent stock). No plants in Turtle Bay’s nursery or gardens are store bought. They’re all from seeds or via propagation; they’re drought-resistant, and California natives. We were amazed and impressed!
After a quick lesson on how to do it, Sharon & I went to work propagating a pile of Mexican Bush Sage cuttings and propagated away until all our little cuttings were done and placed in the perlite soil, per instructions. When we were done with that assignment (smiling and quite pleased with ourselves), Lynne loaded us up with a few flats of plants (16 plants per flat) ready to be transplanted into 1 gallon pots, and sent us outside to the table under the canopy covered with a mountain of the most beautiful soil ever, where we transplanted our hearts out for a couple more hours ’til we signed out that afternoon, tired and happy and looking forward to the following week.
Here it is, a year later… and I hope those little propagated cuttings worked, grew to be transplanted into gallon pots that were purchased at the Spring or Fall Plant Sales, and are thriving at happy new homes… maybe even at your home!
More adventures and learning experiences to follow!
As bobcat kittens grow up, they practice life skills with their litter mates and of course, mom. Whisper, our bobcat, didn’t have any litter mates with whom to practice so it all fell to her surrogate moms, Adrienne and me. She would run through the house and out of nowhere, leap on my head and try to chew on my face! She seemed to have so much fun as she would purr up a storm while she was doing it. At only ten weeks of age, she had been with us for five weeks, and her skills were developing quickly. Although only a kitten, she was quite strong and amazingly athletic. She had the most amazing ability to run across the walls! As if she was straight out of the Matrix, she used every surface in the house to move about. When she wasn’t running out her energy, we would carry her everywhere.
One day, I was holding this cute, cuddly ball of fur when suddenly, she turned and with total ease and speed, reached up and grabbed my jugular! She was so quick and had such precision it was impressive, and scary! Her little predator teeth had grabbed my jugular with such acuteness that she had it separated out and I could feel it pulsing in her mouth. She didn’t bite down, she was actually rather gentle as she looked me in the face and purred louder than I had ever heard her purr. I swear, if she could talk I think she was saying, “Look mom, I got it! Did I do it right?!” I stayed very still for what seemed like five minutes (and was probably only 20 seconds) until she let go. I turned to her and said, “Okay kitten, that’s not something you will ever need, so let’s not practice that anymore.” It was at the moment that I knew no matter how little she was, she was still a wild cat with all her instincts and abilities and we could never take it for granted.
When I was in college, all I wanted to do was work with big cats. I thought I would spend my life sitting on the Serengeti studying the behavior of lions and leopards and cheetahs. My first semester in graduate school I did an ethological (animal behavior) study of the cheetahs at the Knoxville Zoo for one of my classes. I spent months going to the zoo for a few hours three or four times a week to sit and study the cheetahs. They had just opened this new large exhibit and my research was on space use. So I was looking at how the group used the space: did they have favorite spots, did they compete for spots, etc? I learned two things about doing field research with big cats that semester. First, big cats don’t move much! Second, there was no way I could spend my life doing field research!
When I was a senior undergraduate, I did an internship with big cats at the Buffalo Zoo. It was a dream come true. It was 1990 and the zoo was just beginning to modernize its big cat areas. There was a new holding building with two large yards attached on either side. One side housed the lions, the other the tigers. A long narrow corridor down the middle separated the row of holding cages on each side. There were four or five large holding areas on each side leading out to each yard. The cats could be shifted in and out so that they all had time in the yards but could be separated out if needed.
One day, a young, 6-month-old black leopard arrived at the zoo. She had been confiscated from some people who were trying to keep her as a pet. They had declawed the poor thing and were taking her in to have her canines removed when she was confiscated by the authorities. The process of removing claws and teeth of wild cats is illegal, considered cruel within the zoological industry and completely unacceptable. Here was the big challenge for the zoo, she couldn’t live with any of the other cats. With no claws she couldn’t defend herself and would be killed by the other cats. There was no feasible way to give her time in the yards because there was already a tight schedule trying to get the lions and tigers enough time outside. The lead keeper, Chris, had an idea one day, “Let’s train her,” she said. “We can take her to schools and teach people with her. Who wants to train her with me?” Chris asked all her keepers. No one said a word. In 1990, training zoo animals was not common like it is now. The only ones training animals were bird shows, elephants and circuses. The only real reputable facility at that time training cats was the Cincinnati Zoo. None of the keepers wanted to do it. There I stood, 19 years old and completely naive, “I’ll do it,” I said anxiously. “Can I do it with you?” Chris accepted my offer and I spent the next few months coming in after classes throughout the week helping to train this cat. We trained her to walk on a leash, sit, lay down, roll over to show her belly spots and jump from table to table. It was my first training experience and it was the most rewarding thing I had ever done in my life. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” I declared at age 19 and here I am today!
After twenty-five years, I finally have the privilege of training a wild cat again. It has been two and a half years now and every day I get to spend with Whisper is a gift. Just like that little black leopard, Whisper gets to inspire school children and adults alike as she shows off her natural behaviors. She still greets me with purrs and a bit of chewing on my arms, but she has never practiced on my jugular again!
The weather is warming up, the sun is starting to shine (sometimes) and flowers are starting to bloom! All of this makes a wonderful combination to do some science! In this project we’re going to create rainbow flowers.
What you’ll need:
white flowers, like carnations
paring knife or scissors
adult assistance or supervision
Step One: Trim the Stems
Cut the stems of the flowers so they are 10-12 inches long. (Have an adult help!) Using a sharp knife carefully cut a 6 inch slit through the bottom of the stem. Remove any large leaves. Be sure to keep the cut edges moist since exposure to oxygen will make the flowers wilt at a faster rate.
Step Two: Add Dye
Fill your jars with water and add between 10-20 drops of food color (or more depending on your preference). Place each separate stem end into a cup of colored water. Prop up the flowers so they don’t fall over. We had some fancy mason jar covers, but tape should work as well to help prop the flowers.
Step Three: The Waiting Game
Place the jars by a window and hopefully you will begin to see the first hints of color after a few hours, but wait 24 hours to see an even more dramatic change.
Flowers go through a process called transpiration, where it releases moisture into the atmosphere. As moisture is released, more water is pulled up through tiny tubes in the stem called xylem. Water molecules have the tendency to stick together, so as one water molecules leaves the flower, it brings another one up with it.
Did you like this activity? Then you might be interested in our single-day Spring Break Camp!
Turtle Bay will be offering single day camps April 11th – 13th for children 7-10. Campers can register for one, two, or all three days. Each day will be different from the next as we cover matter, energy, and forces. All camps will feature hands-on and self-led activities that encourage collaboration and innovation.
Tuesday, April 11th – Magnificent Matter
With all things hot and cold, campers will discover the states of matter and how they’re important to us. Some activities include changing milk into one of our favorite desserts to stacking liquids on top of each other!
Wednesday, April 12th – Energy in Action
Campers will explore the sights, sounds, and properties of energy in many forms. From discovering the power from the sun to watching the effects of sounds, we will be learning all about the power or power!
Thursday, April 13th – Fantastic Forces
Though our superhero forces may be lacking, there are still many super forces to be explored! Campers will check out the unseen forces of our Sundial Bridge and see if they can explain the mystery behind magnets.
Whether you have enrolled into one of our camp programs before, or if this is your first time hearing about them, we invite you to check us out! For additional information and registration forms, visit www.turtlebay.org/learn/camps. We have a limited space, so hurry!
California residents know that when it comes to precipitation, it is often a matter of feast or famine. Currently, Redding is experiencing the feast after a relatively dry spell. We wanted the drought to end but not, you know, all at once! At 79,000 cubic feet per second, releases from Keswick Dam are the highest they have been since the El Niño/La Niña cycle of 1997-98. Heavy rains have flooded valley towns and aging infrastructure is threatened. We are, however, lucky this isn’t 1862. In that year flooding was terrible. A United States Geological Survey paper confirms newspaper accounts that the Sacramento Valley was a 350-mile long, 20-30-mile wide lake!
Here at Turtle Bay, we are perfectly poised to watch the Sacramento River as it rises and falls with each controlled change in the release level and with every rainstorm. The plaza under the Sundial Bridge is underwater, but that has happened a few times since it was completed in 2004.
The Turtle Pond on the trail on the north side of river is currently part of the river and last week the river began flowing over the south trail for the first time since it was paved, filling the wetlands behind the museum.
Before Shasta Dam, this area flooded regularly. One of the dam’s primary purposes is to control those floods. The flood of 1906 washed out the old Freebridge, south of the current Cypress Street Bridge. It was rebuilt and then damaged again the following year. Floods in 1909 and 1913 affected the roads and rail lines. High river flows in 1915 threatened to take out the Diestelhorst Bridge while it was under construction.
While Shasta Dam was being built, Redding experienced its last major flood, the devastating Flood of 1940. On February 28, 1940 the city was cut off by the floodwaters. The storms that month caused the river to peak at more than 185,000 cubic feet per second at the dam site. In his 1997 article for the Covered Wagon, engineer Clair Hill cites a 189,000 cfs maximum flow. Hill also noted that he remembers driving south to Sacramento through water two feet deep on Highway 99. On February 29, 1940, the Oakland Tribune reported that the river was up to six miles wide in some places near Redding. I have heard anecdotal reports that the water crossed the buffer of floodplain farmland and reached the downtown Safeway on Cypress and Market streets.
The east abutment of the old Free Bridge washed away, the abutments of North Market Street Bridge were damaged, and both ends of the Diestelhorst Bridge were under water, effectively cutting off vehicle traffic both north and east. The new rail trestle over the river was badly damaged as well.
In a 1994 Covered Wagon article, John Fitzpatrick recounts pushing a “borrowed” flat car of dairy products north across the trestle to replenish communities, such as Buckeye, that were completely cut off from the food supply. Sadly, that car was also used to ferry back the body of 19-year-old Irene Clement who had drowned in Salt Creek as the result of a car accident. Fitzpatrick reports that on the return trip, the trestle began to buckle as one of the supports gave way. They abandoned the flat car and carried Irene back to Redding.
As we know from this February, Shasta Dam only controls river flooding; it does not prevent it entirely. Nor does it prevent downstream flooding from heavy rains or localized flash flooding. River flooding severe enough to make news across the state has occurred many times since 1940. For example, the San Bernardino County Sun reported a 70,000 cfs release in January of 1953 that flooded homes, ruined a new dance hall, and flooded the Riverview golf course. In February of 1970, the Red Bluff Daily News announced that 14 northern counties, including Shasta, were to receive Federal Disaster Relief funds as a result of heavy flooding. The El Niño of 1983 brought February flash floods and high releases, as reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
What’s the moral of this story? Pay attention to the weather because Mother Nature bats cleanup and chin up, it could be 1862!
This past Sunday and Monday Turtle Bay hosted a newly created workshop for animal training professionals called the California Avian Training Workshop. The workshop was created with the collaboration of Chandelle Cotter of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Portage, AK. The workshop was more of a success than we ever could have imagined! We had 15 participants representing seven facilities including: the AWCC, Bird TLC of Anchorage, Happy Hollow Zoo, Folsom Zoo, Effie Nature Center, Discovery Kingdom, and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
We packed so much into two days it is almost unbelievable. I delivered a 90 minute interactive class on general training then, Lisa Clifton Bumpass, a Behavioral Analysis Consultant of San Jose, provided a workshop that was progressive and fascinating. The best thing about her talk? We have already adopted these philosophies and are doing most of the techniques she described. Looking at the animals needs throughout its whole life, rather than just what is needed it the moment. Setting your animals up to build on one training after another so they have an entire repertoire of behaviors that help them have a great life, from baby through geriatric life. We did sessions on raptor handling and looked at the history and future of our industry and Lisa, Chandelle, and I did an hour long Q & A session where we helped participants with training issues and challenges. We spent each afternoon doing demonstrations of the animal training we do here at Turtle Bay.
All I can say is that it was all fantastic (and a bit exhausting)! I have to give HUGE kudos to my team of trainers who just blew everyone away with their knowledge and successes with the animals. Let me tell you how wonderful our animals are too: we set up all the participants upstairs in the foyer area of the Museum and Timber walked from lap to lap on each person! Curie, our raven, showed off her intelligence by demonstrating her puzzle-solving behaviors and Kinta, the kookaburra, flew and landed on each and every participant! Even Whisper, who is a little more particular, let each person meet her! It wasn’t all just fun and games though: we demonstrated Loki voluntarily participating in getting an injection and Gidget willingly taking oral medicine from a syringe. Lisa told the participants to “pay attention, because what you are seeing here is cutting edge; you won’t see this kind of stuff at many facilities.” It is probably the highest compliment I have ever received by a peer and well-respected person in this industry!
We provided surveys and the comments were thoughtful and touching. One survey said, “I wish I was able to stay longer and learn more from you. I really like your methods for training, your mentality for animal welfare, and your priorities for your facility.”
It wasn’t just my team in Animal Care who made it a success, it is all of Turtle Bay. Our animals would not have the incredible lives they have without the buy-in and conscientiousness of all Turtle Bay staff–from Grounds and Maintenance to Guest Services. I have to thank Melissa in Guest Services for being there for us for any needs throughout the days. Finally, I want to thank my boss and CEO of Turtle Bay, Mike, because none of this could happen without his trust and freedom to do my job. It became very apparent that one main challenge that many facilities have is that their CEO and upper management team, including their board, put time constraints and expectations on training of animals. This puts stress on the trainers and leads to them using methods to get the animals trained “in time” that are less than ideal for the animals. I thank our CEO, Boards, and our entire Turtle Team for putting the animals’ welfare first, above and beyond our desires and needs.
It had been about a month since Sweet Pea came into our lives. She was so much fun. So sweet and extremely playful. She loved to play spray us all evening. There she goes, running into the kitchen away from us in the living room. A few seconds later, a small, chubby bottomed skunk would come running back at us, tail up and loaded! Charging at us full force she would stop short, throw her front feet in the air, stomp down on the ground, scrape them backwards and quickly whip her rear around at us! Never once did she actually try to spray us. I really wasn’t worried about her actually spraying because this was all play. The only time skunks spray is when they think their life is in danger and she clearly thought we were family so it wasn’t an issue. The only thing we ever experienced was the occasional little skink fart. Yes, all mammals get gas and Sweet Pea’s were, well, rather fragrant!
Once grown, Sweet Pea was going to be living in an exhibit for the public to enjoy. It’s not that we don’t trust our guests, but sometimes children are a little less predictable than skunks! If one happened to throw something at the exhibit or bang on the fencing, we didn’t want to take a chance that Sweet Pea may mistakenly think she was in danger. Being able to accurately spray 14’ we thought it would be wise to have her scent gland removed.
I was about to find out that this is much easier said than done. The scent glands of a striped skunk are simply enhanced, specialized anal glands. The gland sits right inside the anal opening and is not sitting there loosely, but rather, wrapped with a web of tiny muscles that control when and how much spray will be emitted.
Everyone knows how strong a skunk’s spray smells when your dog comes home covered in it. But that isn’t even a full dose. Imagine if you smelled the entire load! Well, the vets were not willing to find out. The surgery to remove the gland requires a very delicate hand to gently remove all of the muscles and then the gland… without nicking it at all. One slip and the full concentration of oily pungent, foul aroma would fill the room. Once in the room, it will never come out. There are stories of it destroying vet clinics! So the search was on for a willing vet to attempt the surgery. We found a vet in town who was willing, but under one condition: the surgery was not to be done at the clinic, but outdoors at Turtle Bay itself!
Using portable equipment, the vet arrived at Turtle Bay. We decided to set up in our outdoor quarantine mew. If a gland was nicked there, it would be able to wash down and air out. I had no idea at the time quite how invasive this surgery was going to be. Once inside, I was shocked not only at the size of the glands, but the amount of muscles engulfing them. The vet carefully separated each little piece of muscle and removed it. One after another until the gland was free. Then a little snip and it was out! “Get the sealed baggy,” he said to us. “Don’t let it break open putting it in.” We carefully held the baggy as he placed the dangerous stink bomb in and then sealed it and put it into a second bag. “Get it outside!” we all exclaimed in unison. Whew, one down and one to go! The vet turned to us and declared, “That was the easy one.” What did he mean by that? Well from all the stories he had heard, most vets are successful with the first one, but once they realize how easy it was they get complacent and slip up with the second one. He was determined to learn from their mistakes and he did! Two glands out, no seepage, no leaks, no breakage… no smell!
While I thought this was the worst of it and her recovery from the surgery would be pretty quick, I was sadly mistaken. The vet informed us that some skunks have complications with the recovery from this surgery.
Not long after we got home with her, I noticed something wrong with her rear end. “What is that?” I asked as I noticed something sticking out. “Oh my!” I exclaimed as my husband, Wayne, quickly joined me. “She’s prolapsing, those are her insides!” About 2 inches of her intestines were hanging out and they were not going to go back in on their own. One thing I love about my career is that I am always learning new things and this was one extremely new thing. I had to figure out how to reinsert a skunk’s intestines back inside of her. The vet had sent me home with some lubricant so I grabbed a little and tried putting it on. It had an anti-swelling property to it, so I thought it may help to make it easy, but like usual, I was wrong. As soon as I touched it, Sweet Pea let out a squeal that sounded like I was slaughtering a pig. I asked Wayne to help hold her as I tried again. Nothing, she just squealed in pain and I was getting nowhere. It had to get in back in or the tissue would dry out and start to die. Every time she squealed, I stopped, but I couldn’t do that. Even though I was hurting her, I had to keep going. Wayne held her firmly in his arms, her head buried in his arm, I slowly started closest to her body pushing her intestines back inside. A little at a time it was going in. I was almost there, but every time I let up the littlest bit, her body would constrict and it would push it back out. “Please, Sweet Pea, let me do this,” I pleaded as tears were welling up in my eyes. I kept going, patiently, and finally, it was all back in. I moved my hand away and it starting coming back out. So, like the little Dutch boy with the hole in the dam, I plugged it up with my finger. Yes, I shoved my finger up a skunk’s butt and held it there for about 20 minutes! “How long would be long enough?” I thought. I cautiously removed my finger and thankfully it all stayed in.
This was not the end of it either. An hour later I saw her turn around and plop, out it came again. This time, I caught it quickly and only about an inch was exposed. So, yup, in my finger went. I sat on the floor with a skunk in my lap, my finger firmly planted up her rear as we sat and watched tv. I spent most of the next six hours this way, just hoping it would all stay in. “What am I going to do tonight,” I thought. “If she prolapses in the middle of the night and I don’t see it, she will be dead by morning.” This terrified me so I cleared my nightstand, placed her kennel on it and set my alarm for every 30 minutes. Every time my alarm went off, I rolled over, turned on a flashlight to get a good look and then, back to sleep for another 25 minutes. Thankfully, she made it through the night. Through all of this, she never once tried to bite us.
The next day everything seemed fine. She was keeping her insides inside, which was much appreciated! Over the next week, she seemed to be doing well. She was still pretty swollen, but that was to be expected. Then on day 6, plop, her insides fell out again! This happened many more times over the next month. She would be fine for a few days and then it would repeat again and again. I was starting to think she was never going to hold onto her insides. But she was healing and it was less intense each time with less coming out and less time I had to spend in my Dutch boy role for it to stay put. Finally, after six weeks, she stopped and never prolapsed again. As she continued to grow into a healthy young skunk, I learned that the de-scenting of a skunk is a much bigger ordeal than anyone ever realizes. It is very invasive and traumatic for all involved. In all my years working with animals I have seen and done some pretty gross things from being vomited on by vultures to emptying maggot-ridden garbage, but I never thought I would be able to add to the skills on my resume: Skunk proctology!