Oh website…I’ve neglected you so long. I hope to return to you soon dear old friend. In the meantime, let’s celebrate!

TODAY is Bali’s birthday!!!
Bali Second Birthday

Tuesday was National Zoo Lover’s Day!
National Zoo Lovers Day

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Snow Fun

I had a blast at Mill Mountain Zoo last weekend taking photos of the animals in the snow. Some of the zoo’s animals are tropical and are moved to indoor holding areas during the winter, but many of our animals flourish in the cold snowy weather. Roanoke had almost two feet of snow fall over two days and the animals had a blast playing and romping in the white fluff.

Wolverine, Bo, thoroughly enjoyed romping in the snow, but he’s so fast I can’t get a decent photo of him. This is about the best I could get. It was really fun watching him play that day! Wolverines often live in cold snowy regions and are very used to icy snowy conditions, so Bo was right at home.

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The zoo’s African Pygmy goats may not originate from areas that receive much snow, but these creatures have adapted well and didn’t let it stop them from grabbing some lunch.

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Deagan Reid, the zoo’s male red panda, happened to be resting when I visited. He looked very comfortable in his hammock and didn’t mind at all that it still had some snow on it. That thick fur keeps these guys nice and cozy in the cold weather. Deagan spends pretty much all of his time outdoors even though he always has access to an indoor heated bunker. Neither rain, nor snow, nor frigid weather keeps him from spending time outdoors.

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After resting a bit, he got up to scent mark his territory. I don’t know if he was smelling his own scent in this shot or if he was smelling female Nova’s scent.

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I wish I had gotten video of our cinereous vultures hopping through the snow, but I chose to watch them rather than film. It was quite comical. I did take some still shots of both female Khana and male Ivan looking majestic on their perches.

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Look at the amazing texture of their feathers. I love the pattern they make by overlapping each other. I think these vultures are stunningly beautiful.

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I couldn’t help but snap a ton of photos of Jaden, the Eurasian Lynx. She was practically modeling.

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See all that long belly fur and those big paws? That fur keeps her warm during cold weather and those paws act as snowshoes to keep her from falling down through the snow as she walks. By staying on top of the snow, she’ll expend less energy. It amazes me how animals are developed to live in their climates.

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Look at those eyes! They are so captivating!

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Fishing Cat Moliah seemed happy to stay out of the snow and in her bed.

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Again, I’m fascinated with the eyes!

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Red wolf Colt was surveying his territory when I snapped these photos.

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He seemed a little confused by my presence, but went on about his business despite my playing “paparazzi.”

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These wolves are majestic, but I think he looks especially striking against the snowy background.

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Ohhhh Nina cougar always thrills me. This is what she was doing when I first approached. She LOVES to try and stalk you.

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Once she stalked me for a while, she went to look and see what the Cinereous Vultures were up to next door.

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Her eyes are still a beautiful blue even though they usually turn green or yellow by around age two or three, and I believe Nina was born in 2005.

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This is one of our gray-phase screech owls who lost an eye from being hit by a car. Birds fluff up during cold weather to create air pockets between their feathers which helps to insulate them and keep them warm. Fascinating stuff, huh?

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And last, but certainly not least, beautiful Bali snow leopard. I couldn’t leave out the kings and queens of the snow!

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Male, Bali, and female, China, thoroughly enjoyed playing in the snow. Finally, Bali needed a break.

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He went to relax on his rock.

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And settled in for a nap after a long day of fun.

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Despite the cold, I could have stood there all day gazing into those eyes.

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I eventually had to go home, but I left with a big smile. It always brightens my spirits to spend time with these amazing animals!

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RVSPCA’s Best in Show

These are my latest painting entries for the 2014 Roanoke Valley SPCA’s Best in Show Competition. This is Pepper, one of my parents’ dogs. He was a stray that came to their house and made friends with their other dog. He never left. My parent’s took him to the vet for a check up and adopted him and he is absolutely beautiful.

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This is my cat San. She’s a sweetheart and makes a great model.

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The 8th Annual Best In Show is scheduled for February 21, 2014. The show will be held in the atrium of the Taubman Museum of Art from 6:30-9:00 p.m. The exhibit is one night only, but the artwork will be featured on Facebook and the Roanoke Valley SPCA’s website: Artwork that is not sold during Best in Show will be available for purchase online through the end of March 2014. I hope you like these and can come see the show or follow it online!

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I am very thankful for all my loved ones including my fiance, family and friends. We got some massive snow over the last couple days, and my work shut down today and yesterday, so I got a wonderful Valentine’s present of a four day weekend!

I measured 21 INCHES of snow here – that’s right – nearly TWO FEET of snow. Now I like the snow and I’m glad to have some snow – even if it is a lot all at once. However, I do worry about the safety of people who have to be on the roads or out in the weather, and also for animals who are out in the weather. That being said, I can’t control the weather and I have to play in the snow while it is here!

This is my snow animal. It started off being a cat, but I think it looked more like a dog in the end. Either way, he was fun to make and you better believe that I ate some snow too!

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Here is a look at my fiance’s snow covered car. The snow is really beautiful.

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Here is my fiance jumping off the porch into the powdery fluff. If I wasn’t recovering from the flu, I would have loved to jump around in the snow too.

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Playing in and shoveling the snow makes you hungry, so I made a homemade heart shaped pizza for lunch today for myself and my sweetie. It was DE-LISH and really hit the spot!

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Stay safe and Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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Humane Lobby Day

Hi all! I hope you are having a fantastic New Year! I needed to pass along some very important information regarding animal advocacy in the state of Virginia. You can find information on Humane Lobby Day on Facebook here and I’ve got details below that were taken from the ASPCA’s website. This is a super important day to advocate for animals locally in Virginia. Unfortunately, I cannot attend, but I’ll be advocating from home! Good luck to all in attendance!

Please join the ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Dominion and your fellow animal lovers on Thursday, January 23, in Richmond for Virginia Humane Lobby Day. This is your opportunity to let state lawmakers know, in person, that you support animal protection and oppose laws that would allow animals to be hurt and exploited.

During Lobby Day, you will be a voice for animals!

Humane Lobby Day provides animal advocates with a structured, comfortable setting in which to meet their elected officials. We’ll organize these meetings and help prepare you for them with insider tips and an overview of pending or upcoming legislation that directly impacts animals—including bills to help end the cruel practice of fox penning and to educate consumers about puppy mill puppies sold in pet shops.

This annual event is critical to our lobbying efforts, a great networking activity, and is invigorating, inspiring and very personally rewarding. Don’t miss out!

Virginia Humane Lobby Day 2014

Date: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014

Time: 9:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.

Place: General Assembly Building
Conference rooms on 5th floor
910 Capitol Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Cost: There is no charge to attend, but please register below so we can set up meetings with your state legislators.

RSVP today and invite your friends to do the same. Every voice matters!

Email if you have any questions about Virginia Humane Lobby Day 2014. Thank you!

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So Long…

So long to the old year and welcome to the new! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. This has been one of the weirdest years ever for me. Without getting into too many details of negativity, let’s just say I hope you all had a safe and wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year to you! More posts soon!

Bali Happy Hopa

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2013 National AAZK Conference

In September I was able to attend one day of the National AAZK Conference. IF ONLY I HAD BEEN ABLE TO ATTEND ALL WEEK! I had a FANTASTIC time!!! The conference was held at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in the Greensboro Sheraton in Greensboro, NC…

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…which is only about 2 hours away, so I just took the day off work and drove down for the day. I really wanted to attend this particular day’s paper sessions and classes, and it was well worth the drive.

Walking in to the hotel and conference center itself was pretty spectacular. I was a little nervous at first. Everything was so large and grandiose, and I had no idea what the people would be like. I’m just a zoo volunteer, not an employee, and although I’ve been at it a while, I didn’t know if the discussions would be way over my head, or if I would be able to follow along.

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I loved this eagle sculpture and the mirrored ceiling above it!

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Seeing the AAZK Conference Welcome Sign was a welcome sight indeed!

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The hotel/conference center was so big, I was glad to know that I was headed in the right direction! I went straight to the registration table and was given a really nice reusable tote bag filled with some awesome items including a pen, button, and cup from the North Carolina Zoo in addition to luggage tags, keychains, and brochures all depicting awesome animal themes. Perhaps the coolest inclusion into the goodie bag was the flash/thumb/USB drive containing all the posters and paper session materials from the entire conference. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it when those hosting conferences splurge on a drive like this to provide you with the materials covered over the course of the conference. It’s hard to take notes and absorb everything that’s been thrown at you during the week or days that you’ve attended, so having some reminders to look back on is incredibly helpful. Not to mention, conference speakers can add bonus info to the drives if they aren’t able to cover everything during the conference. I was also given a binder of information including times for each day’s events, sponsors, and notes on certain events, and I was told my chapter’s president (who was attending the entire week) could pick up my t-shirt at the end of the week.

I proceeded to the main conference room where the paper sessions were held so that I could meet up with my chapter president and it wouldn’t be long before the morning sessions started.

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There were so many animal people…it was pretty awesome! I found my president and we took our seats. Shortly, conference leaders made morning announcements and the paper sessions started. These sessions were lectures given by zoo staff from zoos around the country. They included information on a variety of topics. For example, on the day I attended, lecture topics included The Development of the Light-footed Clapper Rail (Rallus longiostris levipes) Project, Cooperatively Coping and Flight Training a Peregrine Falcon with WNV, Monocular Blindness and a ‘Can-Do’ Attitude, Training a Pair of Abyssinian Ground Hornbills for Voluntary Radiographs, and Pizza Boxes, PVC and Packing Paper: Enrichment for an Empty Wallet, just to name a few. The speakers were phenomenal. I couldn’t believe how relaxed they seemed. If I had been speaking to a giant room full of a couple hundred people, my face would have been bright red and my voice would have been shaking like crazy. I was also incredibly pleased with the information that was discussed. I could follow along just fine and never felt like the info was way over my head. In fact, the material was so engulfing, the day flew by incredibly quickly!

During breaks, I visited the exhibitor hall…

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…where a variety of groups were represented including, the North Carolina AAZK Chapter,

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the National Capital AAZK Chapter,

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Mazuri exotic pet foods

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the Madagascar Biodiversity Project (from whom I purchased the coolest little hand carved wooden turtle figurine)

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the Carolina Tiger Rescue

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Action For Cheetahs in Kenya (from whom I purchased some really amazing animal hair sticks)

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in addition to Polar Bears International, and the National AAZK group among others. I didn’t get photos of every booth because I had too much fun speaking with everyone and spending too much money! I LOVE my AAZK fleece vest and special issues of the AAZK publication “Animal Keepers’ Forum” that I purchased at the event.

During breaks it was also fun and informative to look at all the posters that were displayed throughout the conference area. These posters were also included on our USB drives.

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I think it’s great that these institutions are willing to share strategies and events that worked for them and also ideas that may not have been as successful. This is not a competition. We’re all working towards the same goal, so by sharing information, we can help make our own organizations the best they can be. You can see in this poster the Milwaukee County Zoo describes how they utilized wish lists to enrich the lives of their animals.

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The variety of poster topics was enlightening and inspiring. They drew me in and made me want to become involved with even more organizations or activities.

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Signage at the zoo…

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I want to check this place out. I’d love to further my education.

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And finally, the random tiger cardboard cut out!

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This is where I ate lunch on the day I was there. Although I didn’t get any Cajun food, it was awesome. I loved the decor of the inside!

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So I had a phenomenal time at the conference. I learned so much and met some fantastic people. Next year’s is in Orlando and I’d LOVE to attend the entire week, but don’t know if I’ll be able to attend at all since it’s much further away. Time will tell – my fingers are crossed!

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Winning Design

I was privileged to create the winning design that the American Association of Zoo Keepers is using on their Official 2014 Bowling for Rhinos fundraising t-shirts! These shirts are available for sale here.

The design is printed on the back of the shirt.

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The AAZK logo is printed on the arm of the t-shirt and the front is blank in case you want to add local event info or sponsors.

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The news was announced at the National AAZK Conference and recently published in the Animal Keepers’ Forum, the Journal of the AAZK and I also received a Certificate of Recognition.

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I’ll post about my time at the conference soon! It was awesome!

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Baby Shyla

I went up to Mill Mountain Zoo this past Saturday to volunteer. We had an outreach at the Civic Center, so we were going to take a few of our education animals to speak about to the public. I went to the zoo a little early and made sure to bring my camera in hopes that baby red panda Shyla would be out of her bunker. Every time I’ve seen her, I’ve been giving a tour or volunteering for an event and I haven’t had my camera with me, so I hadn’t gotten any photos of her…until Saturday. I got lucky and Shyla was indeed outside and in the sunlight. It seemed like she was ready for a photo shoot! She was playing around in a little hammock that was just the perfect size for her!

Some of these photos aren’t the best because you can see the enclosure in front of Shyla, but I wanted to let you see her entire body.


Shyla was born June 19, 2013 to mother, Nova, and Father, Degan Reid.


I was snapping photos like crazy in hopes of getting anything that turned out well.





I love this one. I think she looks angelic…


Look at all those little tiny baby teeth! ADORABLE!




I looked over at one point and saw Shyla’s mother Nova staring me down. She’s protective over her baby!


Shyla was so funny stumbling around in her hammock.






She kept sniffing at it.



Then she would sort of pick at it with her mouth.






And she kept kneading it…at least that’s what it looked like.






Cute baby red panda squint!


Cute baby red panda back foot!


Cute baby red panda tail!


I eventually had to pull myself away (although it was extremely hard) in order to get to the outreach. But I am very thankful for my time with Shyla and her parents on Saturday. What a fantastic day!

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Science Museum of Western Virginia: Part 2

Sorry this took so long, but I have been B-U-S-Y and it’s only getting worse since the end of the year is quickly approaching along with the holiday season. I don’t know about you, but time absolutely flies for me. It seems there is never enough time to do what I want to do and what I have to do enough to get “caught up.” Anyways, I don’t want to harp on that too much. Let’s get back to talking about the Science Museum! As you may know, I visited a few weeks ago and had a fantastic time, and I’ve already shared part of my photos from the excursion, but I’ve got some more to share and this isn’t even all of them yet!

I really liked the butterfly garden…even though it only had native butterflies at the time I went. Now the Museum is licensed to house exotic butterflies and I’m anxious to visit to see those as well. But the native beauties are pretty spectacular to watch. I guess it is cliché, but it is also very true that butterflies do have an amazingly beautiful fragility to them. It delights me to watch them daintily flutter from flower to flower collecting nectar while simultaneously distributing pollen. It amazes me that these delicate creatures can survive strong winds, a variety of predators, and some of them, like monarchs, even manage to migrate as much as 3,000 miles every year! Speaking of monarchs, they’ve got some beauties at the butterfly garden!

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Also a part of the butterfly garden is Virginia’s State Insect, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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This plaque…

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hangs beside a giant Eastern Tiger Swallowtail sculpture…

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and describes the insect. I had no idea the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail could come in the yellow form depicted above OR a black morph as well.

Red Admirals…

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And Mourning Cloaks also abound in the garden, among others.

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Another little bit of awesomeness – you can actually see the butterfly pupae! Again, I was with a group, so I was hurried a bit, but when I go back, I’d like to take a bit more time to examine these and see if I can see any of the insects emerging.

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After visiting the butterflies, we made our way to the rooftop gardens…

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The gardens also include a goldfish pond (I loved watching these fish)…

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and stunning views of the city could be seen from a 360º view

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Once we absorbed all the breathtaking scenery (and heat) that we could stand, we moved back inside and headed towards the Living Reef Exhibit. Ok, I was already impressed with this place by this time, but when I found out there was a Living Reef and touch exhibit, I just about lost it. Then I heard an announcement over the loud speaker say there would be a live animal demonstration in 5 minutes at the Living Reef, and I practically ran to get to the exhibit (I didn’t have to go far, I just REALLY REALLY wanted to get there quickly.) A Museum employee (who coincidentally used to volunteer for Mill Mountain Zoo) came out with three boxes containing live animals. She spoke about a crayfish (or as we used to call them, a crawcrab), Eastern Box Turtle, and a corn snake, which I believe she described as a snowflake corn snake.

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Now this is just a type of corn snake or rat snake with a genetic mutation that I believe is similar to albinism, except with a slightly varied mutation. Basically, I believe this mutation can affect the snake’s color AND pattern. There is a Wikipedia article that discusses the various different color morphs, pattern morphs and compound morphs here. The Science Museum also houses other snakes, like the black rat snake…

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And this snake which I believe is a Honduran Milk Snake…

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After the live animal presentation was over, which I thoroughly enjoyed, we meandered on our way to the Living Reef.

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….more about the rest of our experience in another post!

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