SpritePhoto by: Dawn Harrison

— by Dawn Harrison —

Foxes Sprite and Ghost got to enjoy some beautiful weather while stretching their legs in one of the animal gardens. Ghost took his cues from his elder at most turns, many times with a look that seemed to say “Wait for me!” But when he decided to go swimming, he was more than happy to take the lead. Sprite, not one to follow the younger fox, used the respite to inspect the recently downed tree instead. To each their own!

Two foxes running through tall grass

Sprite and Ghost in the Grass | Dawn Harrison

Bluebell Approves of Hay Delivery

Every year, one of the big questions is “Will there be a hay shortage?” This is a critical question, and the only one that matters as far as Bluebell the buffalo and her pasture mates are concerned. Today, we were able to put their minds at ease. We received 20 large bales of grass and grass/alfalfa mix to take us through the winter. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and now our hay barn is full.

Generally, if there is any type of machinery around the buffalo enclosure, Bluebell is very vocal, ensuring that everyone is aware that it is her area and they should steer clear. Today, however, Bluebell did not give any grunts of protest as the tractor made its multiple trips to the hay barn to deliver her prized feed. I took this to mean that she approves of this year’s crop.

Stacks of large hay bales

The hay delivery | Dawn Harrison

Huckleberry Bear Bear and the Very Scary Wire

It’s hard to believe that a big bear like Huckleberry Bear Bear could be afraid to cross one little strand of wire, but it’s true. He was out in his garden and really wanted a scratch on the tree. This tree in particular is still growing and is currently protected from direct bear contact. Or at least it was until this morning. Maybe he didn’t see the wire on the way in or maybe he just didn’t care because he really wanted his scratching post, but in any event, Huckleberry Bear Bear made it past the all powerful wire and to the tree. After a nice scratching session, which resulted in a broken tree limb, Huckleberry realized that he was trapped.

When Jean tried to bring him in for breakfast, he found our lumbering black bear waiting patiently to be freed from his self-made bear trap. Using an entire bag of grapes and infinite patience, Jean and I coaxed Huckleberry past the mean, scary wire and into the freedom of the garden, at which point, Huckleberry was more than happy to make his way in for breakfast. Never before have I averted a crisis with a bag of grapes, but now I know their power—and the power of the very scary wire!

Black bear in an enclosure

Huckleberry stuck… | Dawn Harrison

The Priorities of Raccoons

As our raccoon babies get closer to their release time, we are trying to get them used to different varieties of foods. Today was the first time they received apricots and peaches. I was interested to see which they would prefer, just for my own curiosity. So I watched from afar as they made their selections. One went to a peach and one to an apricot. I figured that they would just start eating and that would be the end of it. Luckily, I stayed a little longer to see what they did next.

Both raccoons immediately started digging into the soft fruit with their paws, not consuming the flesh. When they reached the pits, it was like they had found buried treasure. The flesh of the fruit was forgotten and the pits were pushed, chased, tossed around, and chewed on. They got thorough cleanings in the water bucket and then were taken out to be played with again. I’m sure that the fruit will be consumed at some point, but now I know that playing with their food is not just a human thing, it’s also a raccoon thing!

One intriguing aspect of this experience was that it made me realize that there are some things that must be hardwired in. Here are these two raccoons that have never seen a peach or apricot before. They don’t have a mother to teach them that these fruits have pits. Yet they instinctively knew that if they dug far enough in, they would have a wonderful toy in the form of a fruit pit. How amazing to know that nature takes care of its own!

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

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