Writing About Animals…

… Is difficult! During my first week Kelly and I selected about ten species to feature in the new AWCC Adopt-an-Animal program materials— the bald eagle, black bears, brown bears, great-horned owls, lynx, moose, moose calves, muskoxen, porcupine, red fox, and Sitka black-tailed deer. If I have time, maybe I’ll also create brochures about AWCC’s caribou, coyote, elk, plains bison, and wood bison.

I’m starting with the brochures’ writing component, as I believe this will be the hardest part for me and I’d like to be able to edit my drafts routinely until I’m happy. I’m trying to restrict myself to 500-word essays about each animal because I want their brochures to have plenty of space for compelling, eye-catching imagery.

First, I spent two days extensively researching all the animals’ biology. I’m hoping to highlight just one or two intriguing facts, such as the owl’s pellets, moose’s antlers, bear’s hibernation, and porcupine’s quills. Then I started interviewing the animals’ respective caretakers to learn more about their individual stories and personalities. Deniigi the newborn moose calf became separated from his mother and sibling while fleeing from a hungry brown bear, and survived five days alone; Hugo, Patrón, and Joe Boxer the brown bears are learning responses to commands that will help veterinarians brush their teeth or sample blood from their paws; and in the winter Snickers the porcupine naps in the gift shop’s jewelry closet. Almost all of the AWCC animals actively fulfill the center’s mission of public awareness about wildlife conservation, from starring in Animal Planet film projects to participating in roadkill and bottle-feeding demonstrations.

Again and again I am deeply humbled by the impressive compassion and dedication of AWCC staff to ensure the animals’ well-being. For example, Kelly fished for hooligan for Adonis the bald eagle while nine months and four days pregnant, and stellar intern Vanessa Gibson miraculously nursed Jack the moose calf back to health when he had only a 20% chance of survival. She even slept with Jack until his legs grew too long to fit the two of them in his cabin! Finally, I’d like to calculate each animal’s estimated yearly maintenance cost so visitors can understand how expensive it is to offer top-notch lifelong care.

Now that I’ve written about seven essays, I wonder how I can improve. I worry about the appropriate level of anthropomorphism, and am concerned that my writing isn’t accessible or witty enough. Perhaps these fears are unfounded, but dear readers, what would you like to know if you were considering sponsorship of an AWCC animal?

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