Betsy’s traveling zoo offers animal education – Oxford Observer

Betsy McCall is living the dream that every animal lover aspires to: her home is a zoo of her favorite creatures.

McCall has always been an animal enthusiast, especially enjoying more unique animals. His current housemates include a skunk, three bearded dragons, two ferrets, two turtles, two ball pythons, a tarantula, a tegu lizard, a leopard gecko, and several dogs and cats. She has the necessary permits and licenses to own the animals, as well as a background in environmental education from the University of Miami.

His business started with a passion for showing off his animals and educating children about the wildlife around them. When she brought her animals to a home daycare, the owner recommended that she start charging a fee to bring the animals, which led to Betsy’s traveling zoo.

McCall now charges $25 to bring three animals to an event in Oxford and $5 for each additional animal. She charges for gas mileage if she goes to an event outside of Oxford. She said she plans to raise prices in January.

Miami student Madison White holds Ivan the ball python, one of the animals in Betsy McCall’s traveling zoo, named after the way it curls up into a ball for protection. Photo taken by Hailee Perry

Some of the animals were acquired through wildlife relocation groups that McCall belongs to, while others come from ranchers. More exotic animals usually require a longer process, such as being a certified wildlife rehabilitator for three years.

McCall says she spends between $200 and $250 a month on food for her pets. Animal diets range from live rats to strawberries to freeze-dried mice.

The star of McCall’s Zoo tends to be his dark-haired skunk, Princess Dexter. The name Skunk originated when the McCall family thought they were going to have a male skunk, but when she grew up they realized it was a female. Thus, Dexter became Princess Dexter.

Princess Dex was deodorized when she was born, a common practice used by skunk breeders. She has a lot of personality, is quite smart, and even hugs the family.

A skunk is one of the few exotic animals that can be legally owned in Ohio, but potential owners must go through a thorough process to do so. McCall first applied for a permit through the ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) website. His breeder had to be USDA certified, a wildlife officer had to examine the skunk, as well as the USDA bill of sale, and McCall had to renew the permit every year.

Princess Dex rests on Betsy McCall’s shoulder after nibbling on fresh apple slices. Some of her other favorite snacks are Cheeto Puffs and strawberries. Photo taken by Hailee Perry

According to McCall, there is currently no rabies vaccine approved for treating skunks. Fortunately, McCall has done a lot of research on animal handling.

McCall had several interactions in class, including three virtual sessions with the secon/a students in the Talawanda School District. A few weeks ago, she presented in person at Kramer Elementary. She always takes extra care when allowing students to pet the animals and she constantly gauges their temperament.

“People always ask if animals bite and I always say, ‘They have mouths and teeth, they can bite, but none of my animals have ever bitten me, and we just have to be careful when interacting with them. ‘” McCall said. noted.

The Traveling Zoo made a virtual appearance in fiveand teacher David Bothast’s class last year in Hamilton to teach students about his skunk, tarantula and monitor lizard. They had the opportunity to prepare questions for McCall as she showed and manipulated the respective creatures.

“I looked for unique, engaging and interesting things to continue [the students’] enthusiasm and connection to science, and encourage their participation online despite the many challenges and obstacles,” said Bothast. “Betsy’s Traveling Zoo, with its many exotic creatures, was the perfect carrot to engage and introduce my students.”

Although Betsy’s Traveling Zoo is a business, it emphasizes wildlife education. McCall has always enjoyed being around children and animals, as evidenced by her two children and the more than 15 pets she has at home.

Mindy LaMore, a zoology student at the University of Miami, said she agrees that environmental education, especially at an early age, is crucial to cultivating a greater awareness of the world around us. She said she believes Betsy’s Traveling Zoo could impact local school children because children have real wildlife experiences that make nature more real.

“Teaching children about the environment also leads to teaching them how to save it, which makes this activity extremely important to start their environmental education,” LaMore said.

Looking to the future, McCall said she hopes to boost her educational impact and welcome a few more exotic animals. After the holidays, she said she plans to start saving her funds for a fennec fox, which is smaller than a common red fox and has bigger ears. She also said she dreamed of owning a goliath bird-eating spider, much to the chagrin of her arachnophobic husband.

Sam D. Gomez