Wild Wednesday – Name That Mammal!

“Look!  A seal!”  A little boy points excitedly.  Mom, walking nearby peers in the direction her child is pointing.  A sausage-shaped creature lolling just above the surf line blinks back at her.

“Is it a seal, Mommy?”

Is it?

I know this has been a burning question for so many of you.  It’s even tripped up animal expert Randall.  In this video he refers to a seal as a sea lion, incorrectly.  Oh the horror!

Aside from that, it’s a cool video and for an excellent cause too.  Yay Randall!

I know, it’s a huge issue, and I’m here to help.  In a few brief sentences, I’m going to make all of you pinniped experts.

Pinnipeds are aquatic mammals; the name means wing-, or fin-footed.  This group includes seals, sea lions and walruses.  No one has trouble recognizing a walrus.

Big tusks, googly eyes and a huge moustache of sensitive whiskers.  Easy!

Seals and sea lions are just as simple, once you know what to look for.  Just remember, a true seal has no ears.

photo made by: L.Heafne

See how this lil’ cutie above just has a hole immediately behind his right eye?  No external ear flaps for the true seals.  These guys have very short, clawed front flippers, although you can’t see the claws in this pic.  The true seals are incredibly graceful swimmers, but they inch along like fat worms on the beach.  Their front flippers are too short to prop them up very far, and they drag their hind flippers behind them.


Their movement on land may be slug-like, but seals are able to climb and maneuver over obstacles such as rocks and logs.

A sea lion, on the other hand, has external ear flaps.

See how this pretty girl also has long front flippers?  Sea lions can pull all four limbs underneath their body and run down a beach like a dog.  They’re actually pretty quick, faster than you and me over the short distance, so if you ever do see one, or more, on a beach make sure you keep your distance.  Federal law actually prevents you from approaching them; all pinnipeds are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Do not attempt the following:


Yes, it was the best job in the world.  Harpo was a total sweetie, and he met thousands, quite possibly even millions of people in his years at the San Diego Zoo as an animal ambassador.
So, what is Harpo?

Wild Wednesday – Is That A Mouse In Your Pocket?

Snow leopard, in quarantine at the Zoo hospital.

I had dreams of writing, even when I worked at the Zoo.  Then, I used to think I’d write my memoirs.  I figured by the time I’d put in 20 or 30 years I’d have enough memories cached away to make some interesting stories.  I even had a title for my autobiography:  Dead Mice In My Pocket.  Catchy, right?  I mean; if you saw that sitting on shelf at Barnes and Noble, you’d pick it up, wouldn’t you?

When you work with exotic animals, you get used to having a lot of odd things in your pockets, dead mice being only one of them.

It was a great career; I had a blast, made lasting friends and have treasured memories.  Animal training is every bit as rewarding and heartwarming as it looks on TV.  Exotic animals are not pets, but the emotional bonding is the same, at least on this human’s part.

I worked with sea lions, wolves, some big cats, birds of prey, many different types of reptiles, wild dogs, porcupines, and so many more.  I get asked all the time, ‘which one was your favorite?’  They all were, for very different reasons.

Paid to snuggle with wolfie!

Akela, the timber wolf, was such a funny pup.  We took turns babysitting him off site for a few weeks, before the hospital had room to quarantine him.  Those were some rough shifts let me tell you!  Daytime TV, a wolf puppy snoozing in my lap, and I’m getting paid?  Sweet!

Harpo

Harpo was the first sea lion I worked with.  He was already elderly and blind by the time I started, and he was the one all trainers started on.  Harpo was the equivalent of the solid, reliable plug you put first-time horseback riders on; won’t startle, won’t bolt.  But he was no push-over, if you weren’t consistent or clear in your training, he wouldn’t work for you.  Same with Corky, the harbor seal.

Corky.

Honda, the small-toothed palm civet.  Get it?  Honda…Civet…  oh well, I didn’t name him.  He really was a sweetie, but he bit so many people he intimidated most.  I learned from Honda that sometimes the loneliest ones are the ones that look the scariest at first.  Honda was a big love once you knew how to work with him, and not let him bite.

Honda

Jezebel, my sweet Harris hawk; she was nothing but joy to work with.  She came to us a naïve, untrained bird, and became one of our most reliable free-flight birds.  I’d go running up to the top of the stadium to catch her as part of the show, a glove on one hand and a dead mouse for her in my pocket.  The best part was hearing the squeals as people seated close by watched her eat; she was not dainty and entrails frequently went flying.  Nature in action, people, it’s what you came here for.

Jezebel

Every day, I was grateful.  “Man, they’re paying me to cuddle a cheetah!” went through my head more times than I can count.  I’m still grateful, and yeah, I do miss it.  But, right now, I’m content with my dogs, cats and chickens.  Oh yeah, and one fish.  I tell Max (he’s a Betta.  Get it?  Betta Max? **sighs**) he’s lucky he’s so small, or he’d get thrown at a sea lion.

Not really, and Max knows I’m just kidding.  He’s shaking his fins at me right now.

I was lucky enough to have that dream career.  When I was a kid, if you asked me,  “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always answered, “Animal trainer!”  For eight years I lived that dream, and it was glorious.  Really.

But what happens when you’ve reached a goal?  Do you stop setting them?  I loved my job, but I stopped growing, and I needed to get away from an environment that was entirely too comfortable for me.  I didn’t think in these terms when I was going through it, but in retrospect I can see that I needed to grow in ways that my animal training career and lifestyle couldn’t provide.  So I uprooted and transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, and learned about new goals, and how to grow.

What’s your dream job?  Do you have it?  Are you seeking it?  Have you reached your goals?

I love hearing from you!  I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read and comment and I value your insights and opinions.

Wild Wednesday – Look! Zoo Animals!

A long, busy day, but I am determined to keep up my Wild Wednesday posts.  Today I made chicken dinner, a whole lot of chicken dinners, actually.  When I started the day, I had 15 of these:

Cornish Crosses

Now I have this:

A full freezer

And this:

Delicious honey-lemon chicken

But nobody really wants the details on that, and I’m too tired at this point to wax eloquent on any subject.  Instead, I’m going to let my pictures do the talking.  Let me introduce to some of the animals I used to work with:

Kubali

Mickey

Harpo

Honda

I am really looking forward to sharing some of their stories with you, but you’ll have to come back and visit again.  I have a lovely 4-day weekend coming up, so I’ll make it up to all of you with the next installment.  And, you won’t want to miss the upcoming Weird Weekend!

Ready to sink into my comfy chair with a good book.  Goodnight all!