February 15, 2013
CMNH Wildife Specialist
When a facility gets a bird that is not releasable the bird is evaluated to determine whether it has the temperament to be glove trained or whether it would be better suited for display. Not all raptors have the appropriate disposition to be gloved trained.
Most recently we have been working with Beaker, a new Barred Owl. He came from a wildlife rehabilitation center here in Ohio with a wing injury that deemed him un-releasable. Upon his arrival, he was a little nervous around all the new people and surroundings. This meant that our first step in training him for use on the glove would be spending as much time with him as we could and getting him comfortable with us being around. We spent weeks sitting in his mew with him, hoping he would soon get used to our presence.
When training an animal to do something new, a step by step training plan is written and a reward is given when the animal performs the way you want. Many animals are motivated by food. Some animals, however, are a little more complicated. Beaker did not seem to be very motivated and had no interest in taking food from us. We had to think of something that could serve as a reward when training Beaker to step up on the glove. We decided that the reward should be us leaving his mew. So, when Beaker performed as we wanted him to we would reward him by quickly leaving him alone and stepping out of his territory.
Beaker progressed quickly and became more and more comfortable with us getting close to him. We were soon able to get to the point where we could walk right up to him and the majority of the sessions have him step right up on the glove. He sits on the glove quite contentedly and seems to enjoy getting out and meeting the public. Soon he will be used as an education bird in many of the wildlife programs here at the museum.
Whenever you are training an animal there will be bumps in the road and the occasional setback but you must remain positive and never lose sight of the goal. All of your hard work and efforts will eventually be rewarded when the animal learns a new behavior.