Thursday, July 19, 2012

So you want to be a vet?

[The following blog was written by Alayna McGarry, a former Red Wolf Caretaker intern with the Red Wolf Recovery Program. Currently, Alayna is a Biological Science Technician with the Bureau of Reclamation in New Mexico.]

Whenever I have told people that I want to work with animals, they automatically ask me, “So you want to be a veterinarian then?”  I’ve always replied that I just wasn’t interested in that aspect of animals.  I would much rather go out into the wild and study their behaviors.  Of course they look at me like I’m crazy!  But after an incident at the vet’s office I now know that I’ll never be a vet, even if I wanted to!

One morning I was out at Sandy Ridge feeding the captive red wolves when I received a call from Michael, one of the Red Wolf Recovery Program biologists.  He told me he was planning to take a female coyote to get sterilized at the veterinarian’s office.  He asked for help capturing her, and since I had nothing else on my schedule I tagged along for the experience!  I had never actually watched a live surgery, but I love Grey’s Anatomy so I thought it would be similar.  Boy was I wrong!  I was in the operating room with the coyote on one table and a golden retriever being neutered on the other.  I was intrigued at what they were doing to the coyote but I tried not to pay too much attention to the retriever!  The coyote was only getting her tubes tied so it wasn’t a very invasive surgery, unlike the neutering.  Luckily, I had Michael there to distract me from what was going on.  While I watched from my peripherals I started to notice different body parts being pulled out of the retriever.  I started to think to myself, "That just isn’t natural."  We started to talk about the music that was on the radio and before I knew it I had forgotten about the surgeries.

After talking about random stuff for ten minutes, Michael said he would be right back.  "This isn’t going to be good," I thought.  I had nothing to distract me.  I didn’t want to pull out my cellphone because I didn’t want to insult the doctors.  I tried to watch the surgery and look as if I was interested in what was going on.  I’m sure they could tell by the look on my face that I was more disgusted than I was interested.  I started to focus on the retriever’s surgery and couldn’t get myself to stop watching.  The doctor was pulling out the different body parts and shoving them back in! Gross!  Next thing I knew, I started to get really warm and light headed.  I realized what was happening and pulled out my phone to try and distract myself.  It didn’t work.  I started to stare into space and lean to one side.  Just at that moment, Michael came back in and grabbed me.  He said he was trying to figure out what I was staring at when he realized that I was about to pass out.  He took me outside to get some fresh air and I felt much better!  I eventually went back into the OR to finish out her surgery but I made sure to stay distracted.  I was really embarrassed that I didn’t have the stomach for the surgery, but they invited me back!  Maybe I’ll eventually be able to watch the whole thing without a problem.  At least when someone asks me now if I want to be a vet, I can give them a good story as to why that will never be my profession!

Here’s a picture of me with a red wolf and one of the veterinarians that came out to Sandy Ridge for the annual checkup of the captive wolves. I was fine that day because there wasn’t any blood! -- Alayna

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To be, or not to be... scared?

[The following blog was written by Alayna McGarry, a former Red Wolf Caretaker intern with the Red Wolf Recovery Program. Currently, Alayna is a Biological Science Technician with the Bureau of Reclamation in New Mexico.]

When I began my internship last August (2011) with the Red Wolf Recovery Program, I was still scared of working with the wolves.  My previous experience with the red wolves wasn’t the best.  At the time, I was an intern at the Salisbury Zoo (Salisbury, Maryland), a Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) facility, where we had a mom and her four pups.  Whenever I went into their exhibit they followed me around.  Not knowing their behavior really well, I thought they stalked me because they wanted me for food!  It also didn’t help that a young boy once screamed, “Watch out! They’re gonna get her!”  I was terrified!  I now know that the wolves are just curious.  They’re more scared of me than I am of them!  The captive-born zoo wolves were a little more used to humans, so they got a little bit closer than normal.

Once I arrived at Sandy Ridge for my orientation, I was told that I would be back with the wolves by myself.  "Great," I thought, "now if I get attacked no one will know!"  Before I knew it, it was 7:30 AM on my first day and there wasn’t a single bird chirping.  It was complete silence, just me and the wolves.  I checked to make sure I had my knife, just in case of course!  When I went to the first wolf pen they were nowhere to be found.  I fed them and gave them water and was done.  That was easy, only 4 more to go!  Turns out, none of the wolves were interested in me!  It was a big change from the zoo where they followed my every move.  These wolves had such little human interaction that they were still too scared to check me out.  Five months later they were just starting to feel comfortable enough to come within 10 feet of me.  Even then, they would go running at my slightest move!  I know that they are still wild animals even though they were captive-born, and that I should always be cautious of them, but I am no longer scared.  I don’t think they would ever work up the nerve to get close to me. 

Here’s one female red wolf who was scared with me just being in the pen to take her picture.

Needless to say, I think the wolves are more scared of us humans.  Even if we wanted to get close, they wouldn’t let us! -- Alayna 

Friday, July 6, 2012

2012 Pup Season... What a success!

Another breeding season has come and gone in red wolf country. The final tally for wild-born red wolf pups was 40 in nine litters. An additional 41 pups from nine litters were born in Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) facilities across the country. All in all it was a pretty good year of pup production for the Red Wolf Recovery Program!