Christmas 2017

So, I’m sweating at 5:30. Last night I set out shorts and sweat pants and a sweatshirt. I know I am always hot with the heat blowing while working indoors, so I set out layers to wear today. Yay for being prepared. Here’s the but… I decided not to wear them — what the heck was I thinking!!

My alarm went off at 4:52 and I drug myself off the couch (with glasses on and not lost this year), brushed my teeth, avoided my shorts, got out the door and was at the Museum talking with the security guard at 5:01.

My strategy this year is efficiency. I want to avoid walking back and forth and remember to bring everything I needed at once. I even came to work yesterday to do my final review and check-in with the Keepers. I asked for a few last requests:  move Blue Jay into playpen so I wouldn’t have to move him, tell me where the ETW enrichment logbooks are, clearly label which diets are for me to use today…

Chris labeled diets for me and left a note on my desk. Big mistake on his part!  First of all, I don’t come to my desk until later in the morning. Secondly, and more importantly, my desk is clean only about 10 or so days a year. (Folks know to leave important items on my desk chair or put it directly in the middle of my computer screen). Today was not one of the “clean desk” days. Can you guess which is the note below from Chris?

all my “to do” post it notes were in a stack last week, but I got motivated to accomplish something and spread them all out. However, I only got to two of them and left my desk a wreck to be dealt with after the holidays.

I’ve done a lot of daily treatments so I know the routine pretty well, but Janine left me big, beautifully clear notes which were helpful. (Sarah also left me meaningful notes… which I saw after going to the Farmyard and was very proud of myself for getting everything “right”).

treatments all set up for me by Janine
Sarah’s wonderful note, incredibly insightful and legible!


The work this year starts a bit differently than the past. No flashlight or headlamp (I just over-rode the timers), no moving the logbooks to one place, and, as I said earlier, no shorts. But all is fine as I work the education animals first. Hardest part was probably getting back up off the floor after giving the ferrets their medicine and cleaning their cage. Everyone got cleaned pretty well and everyone was where they should be. Juliet Opossum even cleaned her food bowl and only had one pile of feces.


Carolina Wildlife exhibits were next, and again, all was pretty smooth. I did have to call the security guard around 6:40 to be my back-up/on-call. The muskrat pool was filthy. I was hoping not to have to climb into the exhibit since it is so slippery, but the pool needed a bit of work. Hence my call to Security. The plan: I would radio Officer Wilson every five minutes until I was out of the exhibit and if he didn’t hear from me he knew to come check on me. He was happy to help.. “that’s what I’m here for” he said. With the muskrats finished, I moved on and finished up everything else I wanted to get done by 7:00 before Security left. Success!

Florian eating some kiwi
Copperhead under bowl
See Stryker’s head? Half of the copperhead was under his water bowl. Actually, many snakes today were under their water bowls.


water snake in tub
Even the water snake treated me well which, quite honestly, is typical for me. She was easy to get out of her tank, went into her feeding container well, both mice were eaten quickly, and she was returned to her tank without any incident.

With daylight approaching it was time to head outside to Explore the Wild (after a quick pass through the Farmyard to check on everyone first).

Things were in good shape in ETW. The wolves were first on the list and here’s where my efficiency plan started to fail me. Wolf enrichment today was some scents (peppermint and vanilla extract) in the side cage. My plan in ETW was to not unlock anything that didn’t need unlocking, so I decided to sprinkle the extract through the chain link into the side cage. Well, my fingers were cold and, well, let’s just say I smell very festive – and I’ll have to buy more extract this week when I head to the grocery store.

I didn’t lose a ton of time with my extract snafu, however both wolves came down to eat when I tossed food out. This required me to stay and watch them both for a bit. (I’ll post a quick video of M1803 a couple days from now with a few more pictures). They both seemed pretty comfortable. F2062 grabbed a rat and then walked around on the cliff with it for a bit while M1803 gobbled two rats and sniffed out some meatballs. I knew I couldn’t stay longer if I needed to be back to the building at 8:30 so I said goodbye to the wolves.

red wolf
M1803 searching for food and checking me out

I picked up some time at Lemurs and tortoise. My one issue at tortoise was recording the temperatures as I know there are certain spots to get readings on (but, alas, I was unsure of what they were). The tortoises were fine, the exhibit was fairly clean, and there wasn’t much to do but say hi to the three under the heat lamp and check on the two under the pile of hay.

two female tortoises buried under hay. (I think this is what the pigs do too!)

Lemurs were smooth sailing this year, and since it is so cold outside (40F and lower), the lemurs were not to head outside. (again, this saved me a bunch of time not having to prep the outside yard). I was able to move the lemurs into two of the seven stalls so I could clean five stalls at once, set them up, shift the lemurs over, and then clean the last two stalls. One stall was even clean, and all the “poop piles” were solid (not soft and mushy) and easily swept up.

Cassandra eating a piece of chow.

As for the bears, all the time I saved by not having to clean the bear house was lost trying to get the bears their medicine.  Mimi was snoozing in the house while Gus didn’t budge from the cave. Yona refused to get up from her bed on the cliff. Virginia got up from her bed but refused to take medicine from the yogurt cup. I recalled the Keepers mentioned the syrup was too thick and needed watering down… so back to get some water. This was pointless. (and please note that Virginia seemed to want to only take syrup directly from the bottle!). I gave up, went to meet Harriet, and would come back and try again soon.

Yona refused to even lift her head up
Virginia awoke from her slumber to greet me.


Harriet is a wonderful volunteer who regularly comes on Sundays. She helped out last Christmas and offered again this year. With Harriet here I have a skilled and all-knowing volunteer who makes sure the Farmyard gets a good cleaning (and does dishes for me which saves me 40 minutes).

Volunteer Harriet
Harriet working away in the Farmyard.

Smooth sailing in the Farmyard. Everyone easily takes their meds (not always the case for me with Lightning). The alpacas sprint through their yard–  I hadn’t seen them sprint, but that’s what they did when being let out of the stalls. Retro took her extra food directly from my hands (which is what I was told would happen). Sorry, I couldn’t get a picture of this but it was really cool for me!) I was told to check the pig hay as they’ve been gobbling it down. The pigs started chowing down on hay as soon as I added more to their bed.

4 alpaca
Retro sitting in the front, with Equinox, Emily, and then Ray in the back.


2 miniature Hereford cattle
Dallas and Dusty dining outside today


Gypsy goat
Gypsy looking warm and toasty… nothing like a goat in a coat



The morning work is just about done. It’s taken a bit longer than in the past. Not sure if I am slower than in the past, if a better job is done cleaning, or there is more to do. Regardless, so far the day has been fairly successful and a win-win: the Keepers get the day off and they get to give me some grief ahead of time (and afterwards) for what I will do and not do and how I did or didn’t do it.

Whether celebrating Christmas alone or with family, sleeping in, or just relaxing, I hope the day  is enjoyable for everyone. Merry Christmas.



5 responses to Christmas 2017

  1. Kim Hensley says:

    Such a great blog, and love all the pictures of the animals. Thank you for taking such good care of them, and to the volunteers, too! Awaiting the wolf video!

  2. Val says:

    When did you start naming the animals?Or , when did you start sharing that info with the public?

    • Sherry Samuels says:

      Hi Val,
      names, for animals that we name, have been shared for years. Our wolves are referred to by their studbook numbers and I don’t think we usually name the fish…

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