Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ferrets and Hedgehogs and Bugs, Oh My!

In late January, I visited with Assistant Professor Cheryl Frederick in the Koons Hall Small Animal Room.  Cheryl and work study students Patricia Preston, Kristen Volpe, and Kevin Isherwood put zillions of hours into the creation of this room  to create a safe, healthy environment for animals, and all of them continue to work hard to provide day in and day out support to the animals and the facility.  Here, Cheryl is holding one of two African Pygmy Hedgehogs, Daphne and Aspen.  Both Daphne and Aspen were used as breeders for the hedgehog pet industry and are now retired to Unity where they get lots of attention because they are so adorable! The hedgehogs live in a big black tub filled with soil and plants and a few old logs they can hide under.  They are actually quite shy.

The endangered box turtle (above) lives in a similar earthy environment.  He was burrowed into the leaf litter in his terrarium when I arrived, but Cheryl very gently uncovered him so we could get a look at how well his shell colors provide him with camouflage. Sheldon, the Red-Eared Slider turtle, seemed quite gregarious, although I'm not sure he could see me through the glass.  Maybe he was looking for treats.  This turtle is an invasive species in Maine. He transferred to Unity from Avian Haven.

Almost everyone in the room besides me and Cheryl and the work study students eats bugs. So where do all those bugs come from?  To cut down on costs, and to create a sustainable operation, Cheryl and her students raise their own bugs for animal food and as subjects for research and observation.  Here you can see a gang of woodlice that are used in a couple of different classes, and there's also a breeding crate for mealy bugs on top of the refrigerator in case you are hungry. Breeding the mealy bugs right at our facility insures a supply of fresh and wholesome food for the hedgehogs, the turtles, and these Gray Treefrogs, who are native to Maine. One of the frogs was hand-raised from the tadpole stage by Cheryl, and two were found injured on campus by Unity students Sarah Wegner and Skylar Bisesti.
And then there's the ferrets -- four of them -- Bear, Gracie, Raf, and Darnit!  I'm holding Bear in this photo. They smell awful, but they are fun to hold because they just drape themselves into your arms, and they are quite accustomed to human beings.  The four ferrets in the Animal Room were pets that ended up at a ferret rescue home.  The person running the rescue asked Cheryl if she had room, and she said yes!

So far, that's how most of the animals arrived here -- they were either loose invasives, or found on campus, or animals that had been kept as pets or breeders who needed new homes.  All are thriving in the gentle and expert hands of Cheryl, Patricia, Kristen, and Kevin.

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