California Avian Training Workshop

WorkshopThis 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.

WorkshopWe 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.

WorkshopAll 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!

WorkshopWe 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.”

WorkshopIt 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.


WorkshopSharon Clay, Curator of Animal Programs

“One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”

Workshop

My Life With Animals: That’s a Stinky One

Sweet PeaIt 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!

Sweet PeaOnce 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.

Sweet PeaI 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.

Sweet PeaEveryone 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!

Sweet PeaUsing 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.

Photo credit to Carli Davidson
Photo credit to Carli Davidson

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.

Sweet PeaThe 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!

The end!

 


Sharon Clay, Curator of Animal Programs

“One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”

Turtles Teach: What is Dry Ice?

Known for its spooky fog and subzero temperatures, dry ice is a mysterious and fascinating substance… but what is it?

dry ice

Everything is made of matter. Matter can exist in many states: solid, liquid, or gas. For instance, water can be liquid, solid (ice), or a gas (vapor or steam). We can change the state of matter by changing the environment that matter is in. You may know we can change water’s state just by changing the temperature. To make water into ice, we freeze it! To make water into a gas, we boil it! However, temperature is not the only factor that determines a substance’s state. Pressure is just as important. Water can be in all three states in normal pressure (1 atmosphere or 14.7 psi); this is not the case with dry ice.

Dry Ice is not made with water, but carbon dioxide. You may know carbon dioxide as a gas, the gas we exhale when we breathe. It too can freeze and change into a solid, but our freezers at home can’t do the job. Special factories use extremely low temperatures and high pressure just to make it. The extremely cold and pressurized carbon dioxide is brought to normal pressures and will solidify into dry ice. This ice is -109 degrees F. But what makes dry ice so fascinating is its ability to sublimate (Sublimation is when matter changes from a solid to a gas). At normal pressure, dry ice cannot be a liquid. When it “melts” it turn directly into carbon dioxide gas! You may see the fog that comes from its icy surface, but carbon dioxide is a clear and colorless gas that we can’t see… The fog is actually the result of water vapor in the air condensing from the cold gas, similar to your warm breath meeting the icy cold air during the winter. When dry ice is added to water, the carbon dioxide gas bubbles up to the surface quickly making the water look like its boiling.

Matter comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, temperatures, and states! Dry ice is just one of the cooler substances.

Hope you learned something new, from your favorite educators at Turtle Bay!

The New Bee Exhibit

To update the blog from last year, I will show how the beehive exhibit finally turned out.

Dr. R. Boyd fabricated the wooden case of the Kiosk. The challenge was to fit in the electronics, get the Kiosk to look nice, tamperproof the Kiosk, and have everything work:

q1

We screwed the Kiosk onto the side of the current Beehive exhibit. It has a leg (visible at lower left) to add more support and stability. In the picture I am tightening the bolts that hold the Kiosk.

q2

As can be seen above, the Kiosk is nearly self contained. It holds the computers to run the monitors, the wires to connect the computers to the monitors, and the wires to connect trackpads to the computers. We have those zipties to make all of those wires neater.

There is even a powerstrip to provide electricity. The only input it needs is electricity for that powerstrip!

When it was finally installed, it turned out great!

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The Kiosk feels like an integral part of the original exhibit due to its colors and the use of repurposed wood. It also provides access to a plethora of information for everyone, regardless of prior knowledge.

The Kiosk contains 232 slides about the bees and allows the visitor to explore topics from a variety of levels, from beginner to advanced. It delves into the properties of a beehive, like the one at Turtle Bay, and how to make sense of what you see in the hive and beecam.

Speaking of the beecam, it turned out to be a wild success!

 

It was no problem to weld it together, and it provides a beautiful view of the entrance.

(This photo is not from the Beecam, but is similar to what it would show)
(This photo is not from the Beecam, but is similar to what it would show)

The beecam view is routed into this wall monitor:

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It makes plainly visible the exterior beehive entrance from within the warm and cozy museum, even on cold and rainy days.
In the spring the hive will be renewed and there will be plenty to see and explore!

From the Vault: West Coast Biennial

West Coast Biennial is BACK! This year marks the fourth Biennial at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. This art competition and exhibition is the brainchild of Mary and John Harper. Mary is our former Education Manager and John, a long time instructor at Shasta College, is a former Curator of Art at the Redding Museum of Art and History. They wanted to restart a tradition and oh boy did they!

2011 West Coast Biennial
2011 West Coast Biennial

The Redding Museum held an annual art competition and exhibition associated with the Art and Craft Faire for many years. The move to the new museum building in 2002 put that contest on hold until we could figure out a way to organize it in the new space. Mary formed The Friends of the Arts at Turtle Bay from the existing Arts Council and set about turning this dream into a reality. We had a small “logistics” run with the Find Your Walden in Redding photo contest in 2010.

2011 Best in Show – James Allison’s Cable Mechanics
2011 Best in Show – James Allison’s Cable Mechanics

The contest and exhibition are biennial, meaning they happen every other year. Artists must be from California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska and pieces must have been made in the previous three years and can’t have been previously shown at Turtle Bay. It is juried by a new outside juror each time. Past jurors include Santa Rosa-based artist, instructor, and curator Bob Nugent; the Crocker Museum’s Associate Director and Chief Curator, Scott Shields; the Portland Art Museum’s Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art, Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson; and this year’s juror Michael Duncan, an art critic and independent curator based in Los Angeles.

2013 Best in Show – Jim Gilmore with his piece Paoha
2013 Best in Show – Jim Gilmore with his piece Paoha

Jurors choose the entries that will be included in the exhibition from digital images. All of the artist information is withheld during this process to prevent prejudice. The juror then visits Turtle Bay and sees the chosen pieces in person to determine the prizewinners and to give a juror’s talk open to the public for free. Michael Duncan spoke on the Bay Area artist Bruce Conner. You can see a video of that talk here.

2011 Biennial
Biennial, seen here in 2011, offers guests a lot of diverse media. There really is something for everyone.

The exhibition always opens the night of Redding’s Cultural Cruise, a long-standing, free, city wide event that falls on the last Friday every January. West Coast Biennial usually brings in a larger than usual cruising crowd to Turtle Bay that night. About 375 people saw the 2017 Biennial on opening night. The following day, local artist Lura Wilhelm, who has a piece in the exhibition, gave a painting demonstration. Oh yeah, and we have a winner. Best in Show goes to Gina Herrera for her piece Rocking the Future. You will just have to come in and see it!

Are you an artist working in California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska? Keep an eye out for the next contest announcement in August 2018!

2015 Biennial
2015 Best in Show Hansel and Gretel by Katherine Ace is on the right.
2015 Biennial
Every Biennial, seen here in 2015 is different. The combination of entries and outside jurors makes for a new experience each time.
2013 Biennial
The crowd awaits the announcement of the winners at the 2013 West Coast Biennial.

The Vault is Always Open!

Curatrix Julia

 

 

Green World All Around Us: Winter wonderland in the Botanical Gardens

This wasn’t the first year the botanical Gardens were under snow, but this year was incredibly beautiful because the depth of snow (not too much) left the silhouettes of most of these hardy plants visible while still making the gardens seem otherworldly, bright and oh-so-quiet.

While there isn’t much chance of snow again this winter, the next time it does snow, if you get out, bundle up and come down to the botanical gardens. You will see the gardens in a whole different, gorgeous dimension!

Hover your mouse over the photos below – some have extra information! 

Earthstone

Another Mediterranean Basin Garden denizen, this and the other Olive trees looked amazing, but like they could be in trouble from the weight of snow. With incredible flexibility, some branches bent almost in half, but no branches broke!

 

By Paul Rideout, one of two Pyramids, that portray local landscapes, in the California Garden. Snowy Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ Howard McMinn Manzanita makes a perfect backdrop
Coastal Redwood
No flocking necessary: Sequoia sempervirens Coastal Redwoods in the California Garden
Chinese Redbud
And the award goes to… this Chinese Redbud Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ for the most beautiful winter silhouette in the gardens

The next time it snows, come and enjoy; the gardens are always beautiful!

Happy Gardening from Turtle Bay’s Horticulture Staff!

Lisa Endicott – Horticulture Manager

Email gardens@turtlebay.org for more information and/or questions.

Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery: open to the public year-round Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Visit our interactive Nursery inventory list at www.turtlebay.org/nursery .

My Life with Animals: A Timber Tale

Most people see me as a pretty confident, self-assured person, but the truth of the matter is that when it comes to raising these wild animals, I am always worried that I am going to mess it all up. When they turn out good, I am sure that it was luck and I had nothing to do with it. Up until this point I had been pretty lucky but I was sure that this time my luck was about to run out. I was failing with this animal and success didn’t look like a probable outcome.

It all started with a big idea that I had. We were looking for something new to add or change in the museum for our members who have been to see us over and over again, so I suggested adding a beaver and some ducks to make the River Tank more authentic. Everyone loved the idea. “What did I just get myself in to?” I thought. It’s not like getting a dog, I couldn’t just go to the pet store or local shelter. This was going to be a challenge. Before then, every animal I had ever acquired was random. I had a list of potential animals we could have, and then waited for one to become available through a wildlife rehabilitator. This time, I had to actively find a baby beaver by the next summer.

After calling many of my contacts, I finally found a zoo in the midwest that had a pair of beavers who bred every year. Not having any way to prevent this, they had to find homes for the kits once born. There are always zoos who want them, so it hadn’t been a problem for them. I called and was told that I was the first on the waiting list for the year, so if they had kits, one was ours. So now all we had to do was wait. On June 23, 2014, she gave birth to three kits! We were so excited to get the youngster, but then we ran into a roadblock. They decided that they would not take the youngster from the group until it was at least 5 weeks old and weaned from the mom. I know that sounds pretty young still, but it was long enough for the kit to bond to the others and not to us, causing the kit to develop fear of humans. We wanted to be able to bottle feed him and wean him ourselves. That is the best, most successful way to bond with the animal. But no matter how many times I asked, they refused.

TimberOn August 12, 2014 I drove to the Sacramento airport to pick up our 7 week old beaver kit. He was adorable. It was really late and being a two hour drive home, we decided to get a hotel. I hadn’t checked to see if this place allowed dogs, but either way I wasn’t about to tell them I had a beaver with me. So, we got our room, parked the car near the side door and then quickly and quietly rushed in with his kennel. Whew, we got through undetected. I don’t know what I would have said had we been caught! We let him out to wander the room as he had been cooped up in that kennel traveling all day. Watching a beaver kit check himself out in the mirror was quite interesting. We then filled the bathtub with some water for him, but he wasn’t very interested in that, he just investigated the whole room. The night was uneventful and in the morning we packed up, snuck him back out to the car and headed back to Redding.

TimberOnce we got him home, the fear started to set in. He didn’t want anything to do with us during the day and would huff at us if we got too close to him. He was still on his nocturnal schedule and just wanted to sleep all day. Trying to wake a sleeping beaver was quite a feat. How were we going to bond to this little guy and teach him that we were not a threat? The only thing we could do: stay up with him when he decided to be up. I set up a cage in my spare bedroom with towels, a small water bowl, lots of sticks and a stuffed animal for him to cuddle up to while he slept. In the backyard, I placed a plastic baby pool with cinderblocks as steps in and out to give him easy access. Beavers need access to water, as they only defecate in water. This meant that at least once, if not twice a day, we had to get him in the pool so he could do his business.

TimberThere were so many challenges that I don’t even know where to start. He was so scared that I didn’t know how I was going to get him into the pool in a positive way and. more importantly, how was I going to get him back out of the water and into the house after.   But surprisingly, once he was at my house, he did better. I was able to pick him up out of his cage and bring him to the pool. As his round pudgy body hit the water, a puff of white was expelled and then what seemed like more feces than any little animal should be able to produce! I had to get him out of that filthy water, but once he was in the water, he didn’t want us anywhere near him. We tried to get our hands on him, but he squirmed, jumped out of the pool and ran across the yard. We went running after him. I swooped him up, Wayne grabbed a towel and we towel dried him as we brought him back into the house. The next time we brought him out to the clean pool, we were ready. Armed with a small fine net, he hit the water, expelled his load of grossness and we scooped it out before it disintegrated into a sea of brown slush! This became our new routine.

Every night, around 9 or 10pm when he woke up, we allowed him to swim (or more often float like a log) in the pool for as long as he wanted. He had learned that he could just walk to the back door, we would open it and he would waddle out to the pool on his own. At times he looked like a furry alligator with only his eyes peering above the waters’ surface. We would sit watching, sometimes for hours. We couldn’t move a muscle or he would spook and slap his tail. This meant it would be at least another hour before he calmed enough to leave the pool. Once done, he would climb out of the pool on the opposite side we were sitting and run across the yard. Like every night before, I would circle in front of him and like a goalie and catch him in my arms before he could hit the fence line. Armed with a towel, I would scoop him up, wrap him in the towel, Wayne would hand him a big piece of his favorite treat–sweet potato–as I carried him back in the house. Then, one day, it all changed. I had the greatest idea: “Let’s sit on the opposite side of the pool, where he always gets out. Maybe he will get out across from us towards the door.” So, Wayne and I sat and waited until about midnight. Then, Timber climbed out of the pool at the cinderblock, and walked right to the sliding glass door and back into the house. He walked down the hallway and put himself away into his cage where fresh towels, his stuffed animal and sticks awaited him!

TimberHe was getting more and more comfortable with us. I would stay up with him after his swims, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning. He would crawl up on me, snuggle in and go to sleep. He investigated the house, chewed the doors of our new home, and played with his stuffed animals and twigs. He was learning cues like “come” and “rise” and understood that “good” meant his favorite treats were coming. He started to allow us to move while he was in the pool and even put our hands in the water with him. I would crawl into his cage with him and we would groom one another. He was making such improvements, but only at my house. Every morning, we would put him in the car and take him back to Turtle Bay. He was not comfortable there at all. He would sleep all day and the little moments he was awake he exhibited nervous behaviors. Although the other trainers could and did, interact with him, he was not making the strides there that we had hoped. It was great that he was comfortable and bonding to me at the house, but if he couldn’t get comfortable with everyone else and at the place he was going to live, what were we going to do? How could we give him the life he deserved? It had been months and we had made little progress.

TimberIt was now November and if we didn’t get him introduced and settled in his new home at the Museum Aquarium soon it would be too cold and he would have to stay with me all winter. As much as I loved the little guy, he was growing quickly and needed more space. His pool was becoming a soak tub as he no longer had room to swim down “deep”. One morning I had a thought, “He is comfortable with us at the house and at the water. He is very uncomfortable in the Animal Care area.” I paused as my brain was churning, “But he isn’t going to be living in the Animal Care area. He is going to be living in the Aquarium!”   It was time to change things up. It was time to bring him to the Aquarium exhibit with the 22,000 gallon pool where he will live. The exhibit wasn’t fully ready for him yet, but it was good enough to start his introduction. Wayne got suited up in his wetsuit, we carried the 23lb beaver up the stairs and into the rocky exhibit.

TimberAs we released him onto the ledge in the shallow area of the pool, Wayne waited in the cold 53 degree water with treats in hand. Timber dipped his head down into water and glided the rest of his body in. He swam deep in the pool and popped back up to Wayne. He swam around Wayne’s feet and up to his shoulders. As much as I hate to be anthropomorphic, I felt like he had to be thinking, “It’s about time you guys got in here with me!” After a little while, we coaxed him out of the water and he went right back into his cage. No fear, no problems. We were finally on the right track!

After a few more of these successful introductions and when the exhibit was complete, it was time for an overnight. There was one big challenge and we had no idea how it was going to go. The new lodge that was built for him only had a tube entrance under the water. Not having been raised with such a different entrance point, Timber didn’t understand how to use it, so once he got into the frigid water, he didn’t know how to get out. We thought that if we locked him into the lodge, he would figure it out since it would be his only option. It was worth a try.

On the evening of November 13, 2014 we set up Timber’s lodge with all the things he was used to having: sticks, a little stump, his stuffed dog and towels that smelled like him and us. We carried his cage up to the Aquarium and across the shallow ledge of water to his lodge. We opened the door and let him out. We closed the back gate door of the lodge and left the area. From inside the Museum, we could see into the lodge and were set up to spend the night with him. We monitored everything he was doing for hours. At about 11pm that night, I called it off. He was not figuring out how to use the tube. He started chewing on the back metal gate door. I couldn’t watch anymore. We went up to the exhibit in the dark, balanced the cage at the back of the lodge and coaxed him back in. As I carried him back into my house and settled him in for the night I could not help but think I had failed.

Timber

Over the next few days we continued to work on the exhibit to make it more comfortable for Timber. We added a ramp out the back side of the lodge. We practiced with him in there more: swimming, climbing the ramp in and out, climbing the steep side out of the pool onto the land. It was time to try one more time. We prepared everyone for another overnight. I was going to stay the entire night and the rest of the staff and some volunteers would take shifts to join me. We released him into the lodge once again and left. I made a little camp in the Museum to observe him. As the sun went down, he walked to the back of the lodge and flopped right into the water. He swam and swam for hours. I watched worried. Would he get out on his own? Would he get too cold? Would he be scared? Only time would tell. Then it happened, he went to the backside of the lodge, walked up the ramp and sat on the edge his lodge grooming. After some time, he lay down in the back and went to sleep.

TimberThe next morning, I went up to the exhibit to a sleeping beaver, crawled into the lodge and we groomed for a half an hour. He then crawled out and climbed into my lap. I fed him some of his favorite treats and then packed up my stuff and headed home to bed. The house was quiet. Timber’s cage sat empty with torn up branches scattered about the room. We had done it!


Sharon Clay, Curator of Animal Programs

“One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”