Local News

Friday, Jan 31 2014 11:56 AM

'First Look': Volunteer programs at CALM help people learn about animals

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    Max, a white and black opossum with a bright pink nose, and California Living Museum manager Lana Fain appear on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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    Scott Cox handles Rusty, a desert rosy boa that lives at the California Living Museum. At right is CALM manager Lana Fain, who brought animals to "First Look with Scott Cox" on Friday.

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    California Living Museum manager Lana Fain introduces "First Look with Scott Cox" viewers to Peaches, a burrowing owl.

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Snakes, opossums and owls, oh my!

Critters from CALM -- all with their own personalities -- were guests Friday on "First Look with Scott Cox."

Rusty the desert rosy boa coiled up on the microphone while simulcast host Scott Cox held on to the rest of the lengthy reptile.

"He's very cold and must be attracted to the warmth of the microphone," Cox said as he handled Rusty, who at one point tried slithering up Cox's sleeve.

Zoo manager Lana Fain said Rusty would not harm a person and is a docile, mild-mannered snake.

Some CALM visitors skip the reptile area because they're scared. But Fain recommends people get involved in the rehab and docent programs coming up in February to become familiar with the animals and learn they aren't scary.

Another misunderstood creature is the opossum, whose long white tails and razor-sharp teeth cause people to run.

Max, a white and black opossum with a bright pink nose, enjoyed a cup of worms for breakfast as Cox occasionally pet his back and tail.

Opossums are the only North American marsupials. Their tails are used for balance, not for hanging on tree branches as sometimes depicted on TV, Fain said.

The nocturnal opossum will "play possum," mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal, when it feels threatened. Max is not a fighting animal and his eyesight is horrific, Fain said.

With brown and white spotted fur, Peaches the burrowing owl flapped her wings like she was ready for lift off, but Fain controlled her and the owl simply turned its head about 180 degrees.

Owls like Peaches can be found around Cal State Bakersfield. They don't live in trees.

"They live and build their nest in the ground like where kit foxes might have once lived," Fain said.

Burrowing owls have razor-sharp beaks and, unfortunately, Peaches is partially blind in both eyes.

To volunteer at CALM in the rehab or docent programs, call 872-2256. Both programs are free and require a seven week training course.


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