A snowstorm in the summer
Allie Olson, Enrichment and training intern
This summer I was blessed with the task of working with and training our wonderful new ambassador bird Winter. Winter is a female snowy owl with a permanent left wing injury, leaving her unable to fly or survive in the wild. She came to the sanctuary in March of 2018 and needed a lot of attention to be able to be a program bird. When I first started working with her winter was not a big fan of the glove and it took her a while to step up on the glove. She was often very nervous in her cage and would hiss and clack her beak when someone would approach her. As well as her nervousness, winter was still trying to figure out how to balance and move around without most of her left wing. Balance was the main challenge on getting her up on the glove. once she was able to stand on the glove and be comfortable I began to slowly introduce her to new people and different size groups. Often people would see her sitting behind our visitor counter at the observation building with her mouth wide open. By the end of the summer her mouth wasn’t open as much and she would sit very calmly when people would approach her. Once Winter became more comfortable around people on a perch I began taking her for walks into the lobby and outside to see how she would do with people. she wasn’t the biggest fan of this at first and would often attempt to fly and then not want to get back on the glove because she was nervous. There would be periods of 10 min where she would sit on the ground and refuse to get back on the glove. with a lot of time and patience winter got over this stage and I was able to move on to the next phase of her training… the carrier training. As a program animal winter will often be traveling to and from the observation building to the nature center, various places in the park, and sometimes even to local schools. For her to travel she needed to be trained to go in and out of a pet crate without feeling to uncomfortable and stressed out. To do this I started with a giant carrier that could fit a large dog just to get her comfortable with the object and the idea of being inside it without feeling overly cramped. She did very well with this and after a full week of an hour per session of crate training, she was ready to advance to her permanent traveling crate. The challenge with this crate is winter would not get off the glove to sit in the carrier. I noticed she was most comfortable when she was able to sit on a perch, so I switch ed crates to one with a permanent perch in it and this worked great. She was able to sit on the perch and feel comfortable and I was able to take the glove out of the crate. Now, Winter is a well-behaved bird, goes in and out of the crate nicely, is calm around people, rarely jumps off, and if she does, she gets right back up.