Friday, July 15, 2011

"Kissed" by a Baby Porcupine

I just finished talking with the High Desert Museum’s new Senior Wildlife Specialist Lily Koch, and the whole time she had a baby skunk in her jacket pocket! That’s the kind of extra care needed to nurture the animal that had been orphaned, found beside its dead mother off a roadway.

And it’s typical of Koch’s work here – this is no 9-to-5 job. When caring for the Museum’s new baby animals such as the skunk, porcupine and badger, Koch brings them home and bottle feeds them every two hours throughout the night (they sleep in a crate beside her bed).

Then she’s at the Museum by 7:30 am daily, performing more of the duties that, ordinarily, an animal’s mother would in the wild, such as skinning and cutting up mice for the baby badger (adults eat them whole). Then it’s on to handling venomous reptiles including Gila monsters and rattlesnakes (using snake hooks) while cleaning their habitats. When caring for the bobcat, lynx and otter, she enters their dens with no barriers between her and the animals.

“I love working with the bobcat because they give one warning – a growl – and that’s it, whereas lions and tigers give several warnings and allow you to make several mistakes,” says Koch, 31.

Throughout her career, she has worked with animals ranging from lions, tigers, cheetahs and sharks, to monkeys, kangaroos, Malaysian bearcats and alligators. One challenge is transporting exotic animals to the veterinarian. She had to have the rear window of her car tinted because, when other drivers spotted the cheetah in the back and took out their camera phones, it nearly caused collisions. Working with the cheetah on TV commercials for Cheetos and a well-known celebrity had its challenges too, she said.

A native of Finland, she also is a professional horse trainer who cared for the horses of Jordan’s HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, in Ireland.

Come by and meet our animals and learn all about them from our wildlife staff including Lily!

Photo by Lee Schaefer

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baby Porcupine Named by Local Student

Tumbleweed is the winning name for the baby porcupine at the High Desert Museum, and the culmination of a contest involving hundreds of Central Oregon students and visitors. Maycie Mitsch, 10, of Bend, submitted the winning name.

The Museum had chosen Tumbleweed, along with Nettles and Newberry, from the suggestions submitted by students. Museum visitors voted for the winner with contributions dropped in ballot boxes for each name. All proceeds support the Museum’s porcupine family and the wildlife education programs.

Visitors can meet the 10-week-old Tumbleweed at most 3 pm Desert Dwellers programs, which happen daily and include a badger and other live animals at the Museum.

Mitsch won a special visit with the baby porcupine and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum’s wildlife areas.

“I thought Tumbleweed was a good name for a porcupine because it’s something we have in the High Desert, and it’s sort of prickly like a porcupine,” said Mitsch, who is going into the fifth grade at Highland Elementary School, and whose family has had a Museum membership for several years.

Mitsch’s mother, Melissa Mitsch, said the family was vacationing, visiting six national parks throughout the West, when Maycie learned she was a contest finalist. “It was Maycie’s most exciting memory from that trip,” she said. “She was ecstatic.”

Museum President Janeanne A. Upp said, “It was wonderful to have the whole community join in naming our newest animal, and to see local school children’s excitement surrounding the contest. It exemplifies how the Museum achieves its goal of inspiring all ages to become engaged in learning about the wildlife and nature of our region.”

The baby porcupine, like its parents, cannot survive in the wild. The mother, Honeysuckle, was born at an educational facility, and never learned survival skills such as how to find water, food, and shelter away from predators. The father porcupine, Thistle, came to the Museum from a wildlife rehabilitation facility in 2004. His injuries prevent him from surviving in the wild.

This is the third consecutive year that Honeysuckle gave birth here. Last year, her baby was named Q’will in a contest open to the public.

This summer, contributions that were dropped in donation boxes during the contest and those made through Aug. 15 at the Museum will be even more valuable. Sagebrush, a new collaborative fundraising project in Central Oregon, will make a percentage match to those donations. All of these contributions support the Museum’s educational programs.

For more information, click here
Photo by Abbott Schindler