As caretakers and general animal friends, we try to make sure our animals are happy as well as healthy. The majority of our collection travels to schools and are viewed and touched by thousands of kids annually. This can cause a lot of stress on animals, especially those new to our program. To acclimate these animals, we often spend time (in and out of the Museum) handling them.
Fashion faux pas,
It is not unheard of for an exotic animal to be wrapped around our wrists, snuggled under our collars, or just hanging out in a pocket as we walk around the Museum. Sometimes we have to be careful – while we do want the animals to get used to being handled and touched, we also do not want to frighten the general public. A snake is a snake, but people react very differently – and in some cases, quite vocally.
One of our newest additions is a Short-tailed Opossum. To get her used to our smell (so she sees us as a friend, not foe), I have been carrying her around in a small pouch. Very unobtrusive as you can see in the photo at right – though it is an odd fashion accessory.
Once word got out to staff about this new darling, several tracked me down to see how she was getting along. The next picture is her answer to their question. While she seems to feel secure inside the pouch (so much so I often have difficulty getting her out) she takes intrusion very seriously. A typical opossum reaction, and yet friends find her adorable. She is what we like to call “spunky.”
Who dares intrude
Opossum extraction during quality time
I have also been transporting her home with me (much to my dog’s dismay – “what, another mammal?!”) and spending quality time in the bathtub. As escape artists go, STOs are some of the best, but the bathtub is fairly escape-proof.
That’s not to say she hasn’t surprised me. She once used the drain chain to climb up to the edge – opposable digits are awesome!
Here is a picture of me (left) during quality time (composing my blog no less). I’ve just removed her from a new hiding place – up my pant leg. (It tickles!) Thankfully, it’s the leg bent at the knee – otherwise I’m sure the little critter would have hiked up further. One of her favorite raceways is up and down my head.
After some free-range time, it is more pouch training complete with treats and then she’s raring to go for a full night of fun. Me, on the other hand – I’m off to bed.