I Say Hedgehog, You Say Groundhog, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

One of the hardest parts of being a zookeeper is saying goodbye to the animals in your care. The Live Animals Department at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was saddened by the unexpected death of our groundhog, Rosie, in October of 2016. Rosie died due to complications from old age, as she was at least six years old. Groundhogs typically live 6-8 years under human care.

Rosie came to the Boonshoft Museum from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota in November of 2011. She had been found in the road running in circles and was taken to the Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. Rosie was not able to be released into the wild because of a head injury, so the Boonshoft Museum became her permanent home. Rosie was a wonderful ambassador for her species and an excellent weather forecaster. She predicted the weather at Groundhog Day for five years, and she was almost never wrong!

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                 Rosie the Groundhog

After the passing of Rosie, we realized that we would need to find a replacement very soon, as Groundhog Day was only a few months away. Rosie, and groundhogs in general, can be very lazy in a zoo setting, especially during the wintertime when they normally hibernate. Because we only have so much space in the Discovery Zoo, the Live Animals Department staff decided that another animal would better engage and educate our visitors. Instead of doing Groundhog Day in 2017, we were going to do Hedgehog Day! A hedgehog would not need as much space as a groundhog, and a hedgehog could also be an ambassador animal. Our ambassador animals travel to schools, senior centers, and other places around the community to educate people about animals, and give them a chance to meet the animals up close.

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                Quilliam the Hedgehog   

Now you may be thinking, “Hedgehog Day? Are you guys crazy?” Maybe! But Hedgehog Day has actually been around longer than Groundhog Day! Hedgehog Day began in the Roman Empire when folks considered the weather on Candlemas to predict future weather. Candlemas is a Christian holiday on February 2, and the saying goes:

“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
Winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Legend has it that the Romans believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts. These two traditions melded in Germany and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted with native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born. Unlike modern Groundhog Day, the Romans watched to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow at night. This makes sense since hedgehogs are nocturnal!

We’re very excited for visitors to meet our four-toed hedgehog, Quilliam, on Groundhog Hedgehog Day! Come to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 2, to see if Quilliam predicts an early spring!

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Awards, accreditations, and knock outs–the staff at the Boonshoft Museum have been up to a lot this spring and we have some BIG news to share! Check out what we’ve been up to:

Hey, Hey AZA!

If you follow our Facebook or read our Member Magazine, you may have heard about our Live Animals staff and the rigorous re-accreditation process they participated in over the winter. The evaluation process is run by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and receiving such an accreditation means our Discovery Zoo, volunteers, and staff maintain the highest quality programming for our guests and the safest and happiest environment for our animals.

Through constant training, implementing best practices, and focusing on conservation and sustainability, we are happy to announce that we have received accreditation by the AZA through 2020. A HUGE congratulations to all of our Live Animals staff, volunteer animal handlers, and our Discovery Zoo crew! Come celebrate with us on Zoo Lover’s Day, this Friday, April 8. We’ll be doing special public programming with all of our endangered and threatened species and guests will be able to visit all of their favorite animal friends in the Discovery Zoo!

What does it take to become accredited? 

Click on the pictures to learn more.

And The Award Goes To…

The Boonshoft Museum! Each year, we make an appearance at the Ohio Museum Association Awards in some capacity, whether it’s an exemplary staff member who has done amazing work or something new and innovative we are doing at the Museum. This year we are proud to announce that our Graphics Department has won an award for outstanding work in graphic design and marketing. Sarah Aisenbrey, the Museum’s Registrar has also won an honorable mention for “Emerging Museum Professional of the Year”!

As a young professional in the museum field, the award of Honorable Mention for Emerging Professional of the Year from the Ohio Museums Association is a great honor. I am privileged to work in my field of choice and to have the opportunity to do what I love; receiving this award just solidifies my decision to become a museum professional,” said Aisenbrey.

Needless to say, we couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and dedication our staff show to their Departments and to the Museum’s mission as a whole!

One-Two Punch for Charity!

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See Mackenzie at Knockout on April 9!

Dayton’s Original Knockout is back and our resident Paleontologist and Educator, Mackenzie English, has thrown his hat (well, lab goggles) into the ring! After training for weeks with the professionals and Knockout organizers at Drake’s Downtown Gym, Mackenzie will be going a few rounds this Saturday, April 9 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

Not only will there be multiple bouts representing some of Dayton’s favorite businesses and organizations, there will be drinks, live music, and more! The best part about this boxing expo is that it packs a punch with a purpose; proceeds from this event are split between the Boonshoft Museum and the Parkinson’s Foundation. So, if you want to support two great non-profits and catch some exhibition boxing, be sure to learn more and purchase your tickets here.

 

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Happy Bat Appreciation Month: Why Pollinators Are Important!

From tales of vampires to being some of the world’s most infamous “blood sucking” creatures of the night, many pollinators (like bats and honeybees) get a bad rap. October 1 officially marks the beginning of Bat Appreciation Month—and we have some Discovery Zoo residents that want you to know a little more about how important they are!

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One of the Discovery Zoo’s Egyptian fruit bats. Aren’t they adorable?

“October might be the spookiest month of the year, but we promise we aren’t scary—we’re helpful!”

Bats are actually really helpful to ecosystems and humans! With more than 1,300 species of bats around the world, they all play a big role in terms of eating pesky agricultural pests, pollinating plants, and ensuring the growth of fruits and veggies that feed people across the world and support local economies.

“We’re not blind, in fact we have better direction than you!”

Bats may live in dark places, but that doesn’t make them blind. Actually, in some cases, bats can see better than humans. People get nervous when they see bats flying around because the notion that, if they are in fact, blind—they might bump into you by accident. False! Bats have incredible sensory abilities, including echolocation, which allows them to use sound waves to locate objects, kind of like sonar.

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Vampire Bat

“Who is Dracula anyway? We’re not the blood suckers you think we are.”

While vampire bats do exists, they aren’t as scary as you think. Vampire bats weigh only two ounces, and average only three inches in length, meaning they are tiny. While it’s true that vampire bats have been known to bite people in Central and South America, they mostly feed on cattle.

Imagine an overgrown mosquito—vampire bats are the same way! They only lick about a spoons worth of blood and can accomplish this task quickly because they have an anti-clotting enzyme in their blood, much like a leech.

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Bat guano

“Even our poo is awesome!”

Bat poop, commonly referred to as “guano”, is a valued fertilizer. When collected responsibly (with no harm made to the bats or their environment), guano can be used by local landowners and communities to enrich their soil. This means better crops, which means more people are fed and local economies thrive.

“Give us a break, we’re helping to put food on your table!”

Bats are both seed dispersers and pollinators, making them integral to the ecosystems they inhabit and the economy. Bats around the world pollinate things from agave and bananas to cloves, carob, and peaches. Fruit-eating bats also disperse seeds to vital places, including cleared out rainforests—where regeneration of plants is vital. You can thank bats for things like avocado, dates, figs, cashews, and much more.

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Keeper Melissa hanging out with one of our batty friends!

As you can tell, the Museum is pretty serious about our pollinators, from our newest exhibit featuring live honeybees to our friends the Egyptian fruit bats. Each of these special creatures plays a vital role in the world and unfortunately, due to dangerous pesticides and climate changes, our pollinator populations are dwindling.

So, next time you see a bee hive think twice about hurting its residents! After all, honeybees are directly responsible for one out of every three bits of food you eat! During the Halloween season when you see a “spooky” bat you can bust some bat myths and tell all your friends how important bats are to the ecosystem.

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The Boonshoft Museum’s Egyptian fruit bat enclosure inside the Discovery Zoo.

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The Museum’s newest pollinator friends, the honeybees, are on display as well.

Be sure to visit our popular pollinators any day of the week in the Mead Westvaco Treehouse and the Discovery Zoo during normal hours of operation!

Careers In Curiosity: Saving the World — One Animal (and Habitat) at a Time!

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Melissa, the Museum’s Coordinator of Animal Training and Programming for the Discovery Zoo, offers children a chance to get hands on with our Education animals during Free Night.

This week, we are continuing our exploration of curious careers! When you think about a typical Museum you may think of priceless art hanging on the walls, huge dinosaur skeletons, and display cases with artifacts that are thousands of years old. The difference between most Museums and the Boonshoft Museum is that we are also an accredited Zoo, with over 100 live animals – from mischievous Meerkats to Egyptian fruit bats.

Having so many animals to care for requires a lot of time and effort, so we have a Live Animals Department that keeps our animals happy and healthy! Each of our Live Animals staff members have different educational backgrounds, from Natural Resources to Zoology and Biological Sciences—but they all have one thing in common, they love animals!

Melissa Proffitt, the Coordinator of Animal Training and Programming for our Discovery Zoo, took a minute to blog about her awesome experiences with our Live Animals, the importance of conservation, and fills us in on how she ended up working with some of the cutest critters in the world! Read her guest blog below!

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