Somebody feed that owl

This week we were going over birds, but at the beginning of the class, Tracy took us into one of the back rooms to show us some temporary storage ares. After crowding into a small room we got to see their setups for snakes, lizards, and spiders. I got to see how they stored the pythons and blue tongued lizard from last week, plus we got to view a Huntsman with her babies and a Funnel Web Spider. Afterwards we were led to a cage area where I got to feed Mealworms to a pair of Sugar Gliders, and a Tawny Frogmouth (I cannot tell you how cute they were). In the same area we got to see a barn owl and a bush tailed possum.

During the class, Tracy brought out a Barking Owl which was throwing a tantrum because he thought he was going to get fed but she didn’t have any mice for him. Later on she brought out a Barn Owl who was better behaved (and a LOT quieter).

After going over the reading material, we all then headed out across the park to the food preparation area. I really liked walking through the park at night, you could hear all the nocturnal animal rummaging about, and there were no distractions from tourists. While walking along Tracy heard a wild Tawny Frogmouth making calls while perched in a tree above us. After a few moments of letting us highlight him with our flashlights, he took flight to a more private branch (being a night hunter, he is amazingly silent when flying).

We reached the food prep area and got to see the seed mixes for the different species, we found out about insectivore powers and mixes, live cricket breeding, storage for mealworms, etc. One surprising fact I discovered was that they were not allowed to kill food to feed the animals, so most of their raptor and reptile food (mice & rats) are purchased dead already (it is very surreal to see a plastic take-home container with frozen mice lined up like sardines). There was one exception to this rule (I forget what “food” animal) but when they had to kill it, they used CO2 gas (as the most humane option). Tracy noted that the live-feed industry was quite lucrative, a small (to-go) box of mealworms can easily run $7. But she also noted that it takes a lot of time and work to breed the live-feed. When she was growing her own crickets at home for some animals she was nursing back to health, she noted that she had to spend more time working with the “feed” than with the actual animals.

We wrapped up the evening and back to the front gates. While walking there, I struck up a conversation with Neel (Neal?) who was taking the class but was also a volunteer at the park. I found out that they get a lot of interaction with the animals and there are a number of different areas you can work. They are also quite flexible with schedules. I’m really thinking of signing up for my final months here. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Here are some photos: 2203

Next week are the mammals…

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