We pull up at the Traveling Natural History program at Chewonki. It is Wednesday, February 20th, about nine-thirty in the morning. We walk into a well kept building and sign in at the front desk. Kyle, an educator with the TNHP who will be helping us, leads us back to a bright, warm, humid room where there are all sorts of reptile cages. Kyle says that first, we are going to bring Peepers the 22-year-old mallard duck to his outdoor enclosure. Mallard ducks usually live from three to seven years in the wild. And in captivity it’s usually around ten, because predators can’t eat them. The oldest living duck was about twenty-seven. Peepers is very well cared for at TNHP, and he is healthy at the age of twenty two. Because Peepers is so old, in the winter he spends the night inside, but during the day he is outside in his outdoor habitat. Peepers was rescued from an animal supply store when he was two weeks old. The person who had ordered him had forgotten to come pick him up.
We went back inside and got out some fruits and vegetables to prepare the turtles’ and lizards’ meal. Liam noticed that a carrot is good for a turtle but certain types of lettuce could make them very sick. To humans there isn’t much difference - they’re both vegetables, but to a turtle it matters.
Ganat was brought in because his owners could not feed him properly. He now has a permanent kink in his tail due to poor nutrition when he was young.
Then we gave the crickets food and water, and fed seven of them to the frog, who is eight years old. A leopard frog sometimes lives to be four or five in the wild though most of them die when they are tadpoles or young frogs, due to predators. There are records of a leopard frog living to be about ten in the wild!
It was very interesting to watch the frog catch the crickets with its tongue. The frog has to be put in a smaller container when it is eating crickets because it is so old and it is hard for it to catch them. In a large space the crickets can escape.
Then we went outside to take care of the owls. This involved scooping up droppings, pellets, and half-eaten mice. We both thought it was really cool to be so close to such mythical creatures.
Our next project was to give the woodchuck water. The woodchuck was brought in from the wild because she has brain damage. Because of this, she is not afraid of humans and other animals. This makes her non-releasable because she could easily be captured and eaten in the wild.
Fun Fact: She likes bananas more than she likes strawberries!
We also cleaned the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches’ cage.
They are called hissing cockroaches because they can push air out through little holes in their heads, and it makes a hissing sound.
Then we wanted to look at the tarantula which was very cool! They are called Chilean Rose Tarantulas and the one we saw was named Tula.
This tarantula has never bitten anyone, but her bite is not poisonous. You have to be careful when handling Chilean Rose Tarantulas because when under pressure they can release their hairs, and the hairs irritate your skin.
We got to meet Ella the corn snake. Corn snakes get their name from the pattern on their bellies.
We wanted to work with animals, preferably wild animals. We think that shelter for them is important. We know some people who work or have worked at Chewonki.
We are glad that we decided to volunteer there!
About the Traveling Natural History Program and Chewonki:
Chewonki started in 1915 as a farm and summer camp. It then expanded to become a semester program and outdoor adventure trip program as well as an elementary school. In 1985 Chewonki started taking care of injured and sick wild animals. The TNHP was then formed. Chewonki “inspires transformative growth, teaches appreciation and stewardship of the natural world, and challenges people to build thriving, sustainable communities throughout their lives.” Please check out Chewonki's website.
The Traveling Natural History Program is currently caring for 19 animals as well as a lot of insects, and some small sea creatures in their touch tank.
If you would like to schedule a presentation with the TNHP, visit their website.
We appreciate all that TNHP does to provide shelter for the animals there.
If you find an injured animal:
We asked Kyle what someone should do if they find a sick or injured animal. Here’s what he told us:
1. First make sure it’s actually injured. Observe it for awhile. An owl was once brought in because someone noticed it couldn’t fly. When it was examined they found that it was a chick that was just too young to fly. They could not release the owl because it could not survive on its own.
2. Call the Fish and Wildlife department in your area. If asked to bring the animal somewhere, get a cardboard box with small holes. Wire cages can hurt an owl or other bird’s feathers.
3. Be careful around the wild animal. Wild animals are not used to people.
How does this relate to shelter?
We think volunteering at Chewonki relates to shelter because all of these animals can’t survive in the wild so they need a place to live. The TNHP provides that.
What we got out of volunteering at Chewonki:
Liam: It made me interested to learn more about owls.
Annalise: For me, it was also an experience. I hadn’t held a four foot corn snake before!
We would like to thank a few people:
We would like to thank the Traveling Natural History Program. We appreciate all they do taking care of those animals and educating the public. We would also like to thank Emma, Program Coordinator at TNHP, for helping to get everything set up and allowing us to volunteer in the first place. We would like to thank Kyle, temporary staff at TNHP, for working with us, answering all our questions, telling us about all the animals, and just making us feel very welcome.
We would like to thank Lēza for her support and encouragement while we were doing this project and for giving us this assignment in the first place! We wouldn’t have volunteered at Chewonki if she hadn’t.
We thank our parents, for driving us and supporting our decision to volunteer at Chewonki. Also for helping us edit this blog post.
We would also like to thank you, if you read this blog post!
Annalise and Liam
March 20, 2019