Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The last days

Toa & I surveying the community
The last 2 weeks in Barrow were somewhat uneventful. After the walruses left on Monday, work at the clinic continued as usual. The health intern, Toa, and I continued our door to door rabies surveys on Tuesday and Wednesday and ended up with a total of 50 surveys. The data from the survey was entered and we found out a couple of interesting facts. For example, 63% of respondents knew that dogs should be vaccinated every year, but only 30% knew that puppies should be vaccinated at 3 months of age. Also, Only 50% of people knew that rabies is always or nearly fatal in humans. This information should help guide the veterinary clinic in their community educational efforts. 

On my last Saturday in Barrow, I was asked to give a one hour talk at the local research center. About 40 people attended my presentation which I titled "Veterinary Student Experiences in the Arctic." During my talk, I explained the village trips, the rabies survey and the walrus rescues. The people seemed very interested in all that I had to say. I'm glad that I was able to share my experiences with such an enthusiastic audience.

A couple weeks earlier I met Denver Holt, a research biologist from the Owl Research Institute based out of Montana. He has been doing research on Snowy Owls for the past 20 years. Basically he monitors the number of baby owls each year at each nest, then continues to monitor how soon they learn to fly and so on. They use this data to see the different trends that occur each year such as how the owl population reflects the available food, weather patterns, etc from each year. When I met Denver, he suggested that I go out out with his research assistant, Madi on a hike to one of the snow owl nests. I decided to take him up on the offer and contacted Madi. She was excited to have someone accompany her on the hike on the tundra to the nests and suggested that I join her on the evening of August 8th, which happened to be my last night in Barrow. 

Thus, on my last evening in Barrow, I met up with Madi at her apartment and hopped on the 4-wheeler with her. We headed out towards freshwater lake, just south of Barrow, and pulled off the road at one of the pull outs. We then walked about a 3/4 mile out onto the tundra before I spotted a snowy owl in the distance. Madi explained that the owl was most likely the father owl and that 3 baby owls were probably nearby. Sure enough, when we got closer to the owl, we spotted all 3 baby owls nearby. Madi wanted to see if they could fly. However, the owls were on the other side of a deep pond. Luckily Madi had hip waders on and she easily waded across the pond to get closer to the baby owls. When she got over there the 3 owlets ended up getting spooked and flew away while the father owl attempted to scare her was by diving at her multiple times. He didn't actually attack her but he flew close enough that she had to duck down to avoid being hit. After a while, the snowy owl decided that Madi was no longer a threat and flew away. Madi gathered a couple owl droppings to dissect later and returned to my spot on the other side of the pond. After laughing about the dive bombing snowy owl, we returned to the 4-wheelers and headed home. I can't think of a better way to have spent my last evening in Barrow. 

Attack of the Snowy Owl

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