Juan Ruiz decided to give the new baby elk at Yukon Wildlife Preserve a very exotic name.
Carlos, the three-week-old calf, came to the preserve from the Takhini Herd. He spends his days keeping Chloe, a rescued month-old moose, company.
“We rescued Chloe and she loved people,” he explains, “but she would get really lonely. They rescued an elk, too, so we put them together.”
The inspiration for the little elk’s name came from Ruiz’s hometown of Bogotá, Columbia. He liked the way the names sounded together, Carlos & Chloe, and they’ve stuck.
As a student in the Summer Career Placement program, Ruiz has an exciting summer job. He introduces tourists to the plants and animals of the North. Muskoxen, moose, thinhorn sheep, mountain goats and woodland caribou are all part of Ruiz’s trips around the preserve.
Ruiz is a cell biology student at the University of Alberta, so working with plants and animals relates to his field of study. All the same, he never intended on working with animals. Ruiz is considering a future in medicine.
His summer job was found with the help of the staff at Yukon Government’s advanced education branch. Working at the wildlife preserve has given him some perspective into his future.
“Programs such as Summer Career Placement are of benefit to our students,” says Brent Slobodin, assistant deputy minister of the Advanced Education Branch, “not only because the jobs they receive give them experience in their field of study, but also because it allows them to see other opportunities and a broader perspective on future careers.”
Ruiz has no complaints about the work; most of his friends are envious. His work is always different and he gets to be outside in the wonderful summer weather. He’s in contact with people from around world and has to know a lot about plants and animals.
“People always come up with different questions and it’s not the same questions every tour,” he explains.
With such a wide variety of plants and animals, Ruiz is constantly studying and learning about the Yukon’s diversity. Occasionally, visitors teach him a thing or two about the bush.
“Sometimes you have hunters that know so much, you get intimidated so you have to ask them what they know.”
It took him about three weeks to come up with material for his tour. He read through books and memorized the most-interesting facts. He’s also learned about different birdsongs and medicinal plants.
Visitors to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve come from all walks of life, and tours need to be tweaked to please different crowds. Despite the lovable animals, Ruiz claims meeting all the different people is one of the best parts of the job.
“I like the older American couples; they’re always so nice,” he says. “They tell you all their stories from when they were young.”
The wildlife is not always predictable. He’s seen muskoxen charge after his colleagues’ vehicles while giving tours. All the same, he has gotten to know some of the creatures and understands their personalities. He admits he will miss them once he finishes up this summer.
“Everyday you get to see them so you know who is who and what they do … it’s awesome.”
Above all, this summer has given him a new respect and interest in the animals of the Yukon. The rocky mountain elk, Carlos included, being his favourite.
This column is courtesy of the Department of Education. Robyn Farrow is employed under the Student Training and Employment Program. Her column features other students who are making the most of their educational opportunities.