We started preparing for the possibility of a major storm last Tuesday. We discussed plans with senior staff and checked supplies like batteries and operation of generators. Our contract veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Gottschalk, is on call in case of emergency.
Now that the storm is fast approaching, our animal keepers are making final preparations to keep all of our furry and feathered friends safe during the high winds and rain. The cows have been moved into the barn and the birds of prey to the NatureCenter. The greatest concern for the birds is the wind since it can push the light-weight animals off their perches. The bears, bobcat, fox and horses have shelter against the rain. The bison and white-tail deer are in their natural element, so there are no extra precautions taken for their safety. Generators are ready to run the aquariums at the NatureCenter in case of power outages.
Our animal keepers do not stay overnight on the property, but public safety is onsite at all times. Public safety officers stay in contact with the animal keepers regarding any issues such as damage to fences or downed trees in habitats. Several of our animal keepers live within walking distance, so if there is a major snow storm or other weather conditions when travel by car isn’t safe but travel by foot is OK, they sometimes walk in to check on the animals.
Animals have been given extra food and water today, but most of them could survive for two to three days without food, especially the birds. If conditions are unsafe for the animal care staff to travel at all tomorrow, we can be comforted by the fact that the animals are safe, secure and comfortable until the storm has passed.
Maymont’s animals are not just residents of Maymont; they are integral members of our Environmental Education team. Thanks to them, nearly 20,000 area school children encounter nature up close and personal in our school programs each year, and guests of all ages can observe and learn from them every day. We depend on people like you to help feed and care for them at a cost of $500,000 a year.
In November, Maymont is offering some special options to support and celebrate the animals. You can join our “Give Thanks to the Animals” wall in the NatureCenter, adopt an animal for $25 or more, or participate in our Give Thanks program on November 17 to make treats for Maymont’s animals and your own backyard wildlife. Click here to learn more.
Whether big or small, we take every opportunity to learn about all the animals in our collection. When one of our long-time resident Margined madtom catfish (Noturus insignis) recently passed away, we did some research and learned that this little fish was a record holder for the largest individual of its species in Virginia. It broke the length record by more than 30 millimeters and had a total length of 211 millimeters. That is just over 8 5/16 inches! It is interesting how a relatively small fish can stand out among its state “school.” In addition, it is a credit to our aquarists for providing the highest quality of care so the animals can live long and healthy lives and grow to be champions.
Maymont has caught the Virginia Commonwealth University Final Four fever! Winnie, our Scottish Blackface Sheep at the Children’s Farm, is showing her team spirit for our neighborhood university this week, leading up to the NCAA VCU-Butler basketball game on Saturday. Go Rams!
But what exactly is a Ram? And what makes them so special? Here are a few fun facts about the wooly, four-legged version of the VCU mascot:
1. A male sheep is called a Ram, and their horns serve as an imposing status symbol. A Ram’s horns are used for dominance and weapons during battles for mating rights.
2. Head butting from a Ram can cause serious injury, and they need to be respected.
3. President Woodrow Wilson grazed sheep on the White House Lawn. Will Rams roam the White House nearly 100 years later as NCAA basketball champions?
4. Rams can be very protective of other sheep and will stomp their feet and put their heads down and even chase dogs out of fields (look out Bulldogs!).
5. A Battering Ram is a famous weapon of the Middle Ages used to batter, pound, punch and crush gates and walls of conquered towns.
On Monday, our animal keepers, including Jennifer Williams (pictured in the video), performed some target training practice with our female otter, Pandora. Pandora has learned to touch her nose to a target stick and hold her place for several seconds to receive a reward of fish. This behavior is useful when an animal keeper or the vet needs to get a full look at an animal during a checkup. Check out this clip to see Pandora in action, and find out more during our new training presentations starting this Saturday at 2pm at the Nature Center.
Congratulations to the Striped Bass! The species (also known as Rockfish) was recently designated as Virginia’s official saltwater fish by the Virginia House of Delegates. Come and see more than a dozen of them at the Maymont Nature Center open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Our Habitats team is currently working with a new education animal to highlight some of the more unique animals of Virginia. The striped skunk seen here was found wandering in a Waynesboro park in the middle of the day. It was taken to a nearby wildlife rehabilitator where it was observed to be calm and overweight. His nails were neatly trimmed, and he had very little scent. Likely an illegal pet that was dropped off or escaped, the animal was deemed non-releasable and eventually, a new home was found at Maymont. He has been put on a diet and is getting some exercise as the staff teaches him to go to a target, so he can be moved around with ease during environmental education presentations.
He has quite the hairdo, huh?!
Last week, we introduced two new rabbits to our animal collection at the Children’s Farm. Louey is a chestnut colored lop-eared rabbit, and Cotton is a white and gray lop-eared rabbit. Both will be introduced to our other resident lop-eared, Nutmeg, in the coming days. All the rabbits at Maymont are used for environmental education programming and special animal encounters when not on exhibit at the Farm. To learn more about our upcoming programs, visit www.maymont.org or call us at 804-358-7166, ext. 324. And don’t forget to visit Louey, Cotton and Nutmeg during your next visit to the Children’s Farm barn!