I'm back from the land of ice and exotics! Six of us from the U of MN CVM went to the Exotics Symposium this weekend at the U of MO CVM. We were a little nervous when we saw the weather report that predicted freezing rain all weekend, but we figured hey, we're from Minnesota, we can handle a little rain. We left around 4 on Friday and arrived in Columbia around 2:30 AM. Driving was fine until we hit Missouri, where we counted over two dozen cars in the ditch (at least three of those were on their roofs). We just took it slow and made it in okay.
The Symposium started at 8 on Saturday morning, so we slept from 3 to 7. When we arrived, we couldn't even tell where to park because there were so few cars around compared to what we were expecting. People trickled in throughout the morning, but considering the emptiness of our wet labs, I think a lot of people called the trip off entirely. We did meet students from Wisconsin, Colorado, and Tennessee who managed to drive in too.
Anyway, the morning started off with a talk about reptile medicine, then a really cool talk from a vet who did a total hip replacement on a snow leopard. There were a couple more talks about reptiles, then lunch, then the wet lab about parasitic fish diseases. It was fun learning about the various parasites and how to test fish for them, but the fish we had to test were a little too healthy... Not a single parasite to be found! Oh well- good for the fish, I guess. After that, we had a talk about the avian respiratory system, which unfortunately made most of us fall asleep. We got a few angry glares from the lecturer, but hey, if he'd rolled in at 2:30 AM he'd be falling asleep too.
We all went back to the hotel for a quick nap, then went to a comedy club with a bunch of other people from the symposium. Comedy was mediocre, and the food was terrible (deep-fried ravioli?), but it was fun to hang out anyway. The best part was skating around the sidewalks of Columbia and breaking the car out of its case of ice at the end of the night.
Sunday lectures were more fun for me because they had a little more focus on small mammals (rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs). The vet who wrote Exotic Pet Behavior was there, and she had to fill in for a lecturer who couldn't make it, so we even got a bonus small mammal lecture. It was nice to hear from someone who thinks that just because they are hamsters/bunnies/ferrets/etc doesn't mean they don't deserve the same quality of veterinary care that cats and dogs get. I suspect the more popular exotics get, the more willing people will be to pay for their vet treatment just like cats/dogs/horses/etc. We just have to find a way to fight the "But it would only cost $6 to buy a new one!" mentality...
The last wet lab was Avian Necropsy, and since the weather was so awful only 4 out 10 people who'd registered actually showed up. We had our choice of what bird we wanted to work with. I chose a big fat red-tailed hawk, and someone else from Minnesota picked a barred owl. The coolest part was dissecting out the eye... No wonder they can see so well! About 2/3 of their head is occupied by eye. And unlike our eye, which is just a ball shape, raptor eyes are shaped sort of like a mushroom. The front of the eye is relatively small, and the back is a lot bigger. This allows their retina to catch way more light than ours can, and makes their peripheral vision really amazing. We also got to look at bird lungs and kindeys and air sacs... very cool.
So we left there around 5, and were pretty convinced we would have to crash in a hotel somewhere once the weather got too bad. Thankfully it was above 32 degrees for most of the time we were in Missouri. Once we got to Iowa it was just nice friendly snow rather than the nasty ice that we had on the way down. We got in to St. Paul around 4:30 this morning, then had a tour of Como Zoo at 11. We got to feed crackers to Clover the giraffe and go behind the scenes to look at all the critters. I had my first experience of having a lion give me a look that distinctly said "I would eat you if I could get my paws on you." Incredibly scary, and wow does it make you respect them. We talked to the keeper of the Tropical Encounters exhibit and discussed what kinds of issues we can work on over the next year. She said that, any time we want, we can come over with a pair of binoculars and watch birds to find their nests... How fun!
And now it's back to classes. I'm ready for weekend already!