Rocky was waiting for me. For three days in a row, Rocky, one of our moose bulls, was waiting.
To put this into perspective, I had been working at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve for about two months before I got within a kilometre of any moose. The day I did, I called home, woke my husband, blogged about it and bragged to anyone who would listen. My staff laughed.
Since then, I have had several opportunities to get pretty close, but getting very close is not quite as cool as being waited for. Rocky not only waited, but when I arrived, he got up and walked over to where I was standing. He nearly touched me with his antlers.
OK, if you have to know, Rocky came to greet me because I had his food.
Recently, I had the opportunity to feed the animals. Feeding was a fortunate side effect to my forcing Maria, our veterinarian, and Randy, our operations manager, to take a few days off.
At the Preserve, I am blessed with staff that are incredibly dedicated and, with Randy and Maria, the animals always come first. In the end, forced vacation didn’t really work – we barely lasted three days without them, but I consider it a success that they mostly stayed home. Regardless, I got to feed!
Feeding is an amazing experience. It gave me a real sense of accomplishment and it allowed me to see the animals in a very personal way.
Each species behaved a bit differently during the feeding. The caribou immediately approached when we arrived and waited quite close until we left. Some animals, like the lynx and most of the elk, remained very far away.
They watched attentively and waited patiently for me to finish before cautiously approaching. The exception was Cliff, a rescue elk who confidently approached, nearly dipping his head directly into the bucket.
Similarly, the mule deer swarmed when we came around, and the very presence of the truck brought the muskoxen running from every direction. While I found that fascinating, I have to admit I was glad there were solid barriers between us.
We scooped pellets and threw hay – very often getting it in our hair and all over our clothes. We counted animals and monitored their general health and well-being.
Finding everyone on the cliffs or in the woods is a bit like Where’s Waldo? – at times a challenge. To my very nervous veterinarian, I had promised to be especially attentive and was pleased to report that every animal was present, healthy and well fed.
Adding to my enjoyment was the chance to be outdoors for most of the day. All three days were cool but clear. Hoarfrost covered everything: the trees – the fence lines and the animals – and the sun reflecting off of the frost was breathtaking. I made the most of the opportunity, taking time to enjoy the animals, the view and the weather.
I am definitely going to have to impose vacations more often.