It’s “Reina”ing Cats and Dogs
BY: Allie Olson, Enrichment and Training Intern
This past summer was full of many great memories and challenges for me. Getting to know and work with all the animals was a great experience. I especially enjoyed presenting all the meet the animal programs and doing training with the wolves and coyotes. Part of my internship required me to design and implement a project that would benefit the wildlife sanctuary and based on my love for the animal programs and coyotes I decide to do two projects.
I was very fortunate to be able to work with all the animals like the otters, foxes, porcupine, and birds of prey for the meet the animal series. However, I noticed that the sanctuary has two wonderful wild cat species, bobcats and a cougar, that were not being highlighted in a program. This lead me to my first project of designing and implementing a program to show off these magnificent animals. I began by doing some research on bob cats and mountain lions so that there would be information about the cats to present to the public every Monday. I then did some trials with different types of enrichment for the bob cats to see what catches their attention the most. I tried different enrichment options for the Cougar, Avani, but none seemed to spark her interest so I focused my attention on Puc and Bob the bobcats. Enrichment is a way to enhance the lives of the animals and maintain wild animal instincts like curiosity and caution. From my enrichment trials, I discovered that that the bobcats really enjoyed the smell of catnip, mint, and lemon pepper. These scents kept their attention for long periods of time and occasionally put them in a playful or active mood. Once I discovered this, I scattered these scents around their exhibit so that they would stay out and about for the public to view them for the duration of the program, as well as provide them with weekly enrichment.
This first project was completed rather quickly so I decided to focus my attention on our rather skittish coyote, Reina. Reina started out as a very timid two-year-old coyote when I first started working with her. She was very sensitive to movement and so timid, not only around people, but around Romeo, the other coyote, as well. I started to gain her trust by tossing treats to her in the large exhibit portion of their enclosure. I then began tossing treats into their large shift cage so that she would become more comfortable in that space. After two weeks of this she could come up to the fence and shyly take treats I would toss to her without running off. As her trust was built with me, her confidence in herself became more known too. Instead of running off when Romeo growled at her, she would growl back and protect her treats from him. By the third week of working with her, Reina was taking treats from the tweezers as Romeo has been doing for years. She also was being seen more frequently from the public viewing areas, and was shifting in and out of her assigned shift much easier. In the last few weeks of summer Reina has improved drastically to the point where I can move around without her running away, and she would take tweezer treats from all different parts of the shift including her own shift cage. I am so proud of her progress and it is great to see her gaining courage little by little.