CK9 Field Notes: Adirondack Moose Study
Story Contributed by Conservation Canines
Hi there! I’m Athena, one of the newest recruits with Conservation Canines. In my short time here, I’ve already visited three different states and three countries. I’ve worked on four different projects and have a lot more coming my way! But how did I even get here?
I used to be part of a small family, and there was a little boy who loved me and played with me a lot. But I was a little too much for them to handle, I’ll admit it, and they knew I wasn’t getting the attention that I really needed. The little boy found out about Conservation Canines while doing a school report on the program, and when his parents read it, they thought that maybe I could go work for them. You know, because I’m so full of energy and have this obsession with playing ball, and all that jazz.
So I came and joined this much bigger family. It’s like I’m part of a pack. It’s been awesome! There are so many new friends — people and dogs — and I get to play ball all the time! Plus, they take me on all these adventures around the world. Once I overheard them say that I was helping to protect wild animals and stuff. That’s pretty cool, right? What’s even cooler is how much I get to play ball.
On my last adventure, I went with Jennifer Hartman, a super awesome and experienced handler with Conservation Canines, to Nepal and Vietnam. She wanted me to find scat from this animal called a pangolin, which is not anything like a penguin, let me tell you! It’s something like a scaly anteater, with a long sticky tongue that slurps up ants and termites. Yuck! And boy was that a tough job. They told me that this animal is the most heavily poached mammal in the entire world, and that me and my teammate, Skye, would be helping to aid in conservation efforts. Skye and I were having a rough time sniffing out any signs of this animal, and I could tell Jennifer was getting worried. But every day she went out into the field saying, “Today’s the day! Let’s go find it, Panda Face!” (She thinks I look like a panda and I go with it.) Jennifer is so much fun! We still played ball all the time and we were having such an awesome adventure. We did find other cool stuff, like this one day I found a tortoise – yeah, a tortoise! Jennifer was always really excited for me when I found anything interesting. The areas we surveyed were pretty steep and thick jungle, so Jennifer had to help me through some of the more difficult areas by grabbing on to my Web Master Harness™ and lifting me, or fitting my paws with some boots so I didn’t get leeches in between my toe pads. Sometimes it got so hot there that Jennifer put on my Swamp Cooler™ which really helped cool me down. We traveled by plane, boat, bumpy bus, and motorbike!
Now I’m back in the US on a study in the Adirondacks looking for scat from a much bigger animal: moose! I’m working with a new handler, Mairi Poisson, who is a lot quieter than Jennifer and definitely not as experienced but just as playful. She loves my hugs and big smiles, and gives me funny nicknames like Teeny, Athena Warrior Princess and Vaquita. While we’re finding a lot more scat on this project, the moose are surprisingly stealthy. We’ve seen a lot of other animals though: black bears, a pine marten, a saw whet owl, turkeys, snapping turtles. And even though none of them seem like they want to be my friend, I still think they’re pretty cool.
One day, Mairi and I were picking our way through some downed trees when I looked up and saw a huuuuuuge thing staring back at me. At first I thought it was a giant dog or a bear with horns, so I ran up to it to see what it was. Mairi started yelling to me and the big animal just turned and ran into the woods. I went back to Mairi who fell on the ground and said, “Teeny, that was a moose! That was a moose!” Wow! We saw a moose! And soon after that, once we had calmed down from the excitement, we found a ton of fresh scat. I came back to the house and told all my friends, like Skye, Hiccup, Zilly and Ranger about it and they didn’t believe me, but I know they’re just jealous.
We’re almost done with this project and I’m going to miss living here. We get to go swimming all the time, and I put on my Float Coat™ and play with the Lunker™ all afternoon. We have awesome trails to hike along and I get to play all day. But they say we’re going back to Washington after this, which means I get to see all my other new friends and Jennifer, too, when I get there.