I was hoping to write my first Animal Department blog post about volunteering to help clean the bear pool. But, alas, the weather did not cooperate and the bear pool cleaning was postponed. But, I was already at the Museum so I decided to stay and help out with the off-exhibit animals. Maybe you didn’t know that there are many animals who live behind the scenes. These residents are usually used for education purposes (and sometimes they even get to go to birthday parties!)
So, even though I speak fluent chicken with our Silkie chicken, love to hold the soft chinchillas (“Salt” and “Pepper”), and think our new opossum, Jessica, is just cute as beans, today I am going to tell you about my least favorite “inside” animal–Megatron. Megatron is our beautiful hissing Pine Snake (emphasis on the “hissing”). He’s a large snake (I think he’s our largest) and he’s been at the Museum for about 8 years.
Most of the animals around the Museum make quite a mess every day–sometimes many messes every day, like Max (the steer in the Farmyard), or Bugsy the (indoor) rabbit. Not so much the snakes. They don’t eat nearly as often, so you really have to look to see when they leave a “gift” of poop in their habitat. Usually you will smell it before you see it. But when they poop, they can really make a mess.
On this day, Megatron has left me a large gift/mess (did I mention he’s not my favorite…yet?), which means I have to totally reset his cage. First, we have to get Megatron out of his box. I decided to let Kristen (the Keeper I was working with that day) do this for me since I’m not completely at ease with Megatron yet (did I mention that he hisses? You can see a great photo of Marilyn holding Megatron in her profile picture). Then I have to clean out everything, but first I pay attention to the orange sign on the glass of the snake cage that says “Fecal needed.” This means I have to actually collect the feces and give it to Katy to analyze.
Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. Poop is a very helpful tool in animal care. Almost all the animals at the Museum have their poop checked to see if there are intestinal parasites or worms that need to be treated. If you are interested in how this happens, you can read a bit about doing a fecal float. Basically, you scoop the poop into a special testing container along with some solution. If there are parasites, worms, or egg cysts, they will float to the top.
A microscope slide is made from the stuff floating on the top of the solution. Then Katy gets to look at it under a microscope to see what unwanted worms or parasites may be present. Sometimes she confers with one of the vets who come to check our animals and they decide on a treatment plan. Apparently we like snakes but we don’t like worms.
I am getting better about liking Megatron. If you look very carefully in his reset cage you can see that I put in his enrichment which was scheduled for the day: a brush. I suppose if you are a snake you might like to crawl over it. Other days he gets a holey ball, or a pile of mulch, or something to climb on. We try to make life exciting for the animals
And that’s the scoop on snake poop!