Saturday, March 19, 2016

Create A Creature, Rebecca Tabbutt

The Care and Feeding of Your Domesticated Eskimote
By Rebecca Tabbutt

 The growing popularity of the domesticated eskimote as a family pet has created somewhat of an eskimote “boom” in the United States over the past five years.  Several small, local eskimote shows have even sprung up in parts of Minnesota, and Maine, although attendance is still fairly limited, owing in large part to the difficulties posed by the eskimote’s environmental requirements.  The need to hold the events in the dead of winter in an unheated building to ensure the safety of the eskimotes certainly does not add to the comfort of human attendees, no doubt affecting attendance numbers.  Still, the domesticated eskimote as a household pet is slowly catching up to the hamster, the guinea pig, and the iguana when it comes to popularity of small family companions.  
 Inevitably, the sudden growth of the eskimote market has not only driven up prices of the animal from breeders, and pet stores, but has also created the need for several eskimote rescue organizations.  Much as the several months after Easter see an influx of surrendered rabbits, and chickens, the summer months have become the time of the cast off eskimote.  Too many new eskimote owners are ill prepared for the feeding requirements, while others simply need the extra freezer space.  Purchased in the cold of winter, when an eskimote is able to spend time outdoors below a certain temperature, they become more “inconvenient” once summer hits, when by necessity their time must be spent almost exclusively in their freezer habitats.  Sadly, many eskimotes don’t make it to a shelter, as too many pet owners either don’t know, or don’t care that temperature regulation is an essential part of bringing an eskimote into your family.   Even more tragically, occasionally a new owner mistakenly believes that an icemaker is a safe place for their new pet.
 So, how can you bring home a furry little eskimote of your very own while ensuring that it will be a healthy, long term member of your family?  Do your research!  Eskimotes may be tiny, adorable little balls of fur, but they have very specific needs.  Look around your home.  Do you have enough freezer space for a habitat?  An eskimote needs at least a 12”x 8” habitat, so if you can’t do without those 4 extra bags of frozen peas, you might consider purchasing a chest freezer, or dorm fridge that can be turned down to optimal eskimote temperature.  And while we’re on the subject, what is the optimal eskimote temperature?  A healthy eskimote should live mainly in an area with a temperature range between 35F and -15F.  This means that your freezer is his or her happy place.  Your fridge may offer a fun place for your eskimote to explore, and exercise now and then, but only for short periods of time.  And once the cold of winter hits, snap on that eskimote harness, and go for a walk!  Eskimotes are big fans of the snow, and many families find that they can spend hours building eskimote igloos, and snow fortresses while their pet burrows, and rolls beside them.  The eskimote’s large feet may help them grip ice, but they aren’t as convenient in the snow, meaning that an eskimote escape is rare.  Many potential owners may feel anxious that their eskimote’s wings could suddenly become functional, but though their wings are similar to those of a bat, the modern eskimote is as flightless as a penguin.  Researchers believe that the wings are mainly used to scare off predators.  The extreme temperatures of their native environment, coupled with the difficulty of breaking through an eskimote ice burrow generally keeps them safe, but artic foxes have been known to attempt a burrow break in from time to time.  Extending their wings to make themselves look nearly three times their actual size has always been an effective predator defense.  Some veterinarians have begun to offer wing clipping, but it is unnecessary, and inhumane.  An eskimote who feels threatened, or overwhelmed will curl their wings around themselves as a way to feel calm, and safe, and removing that ability can result in a highly anxious pet.  Let your eskimote keep his or her wings, and rest assured that you will not be chasing him around your kitchen with a butterfly net.  
 Now that you understand the environmental needs of your new pet, what about feeding?  The eskimote diet is simple, yet highly specific.  In the wild, an eskimote eats mainly live grubs, but domesticated eskimotes have been bred over time to prefer dry food made from various insects.  Their food is available at any pet food retailer, however the conditions required for feeding is what often trips up new owners.  Eskimotes must eat every 8 hours, and ONLY in pitch darkness.  There is a reason that eskimote habitats come with blackout shades.  Researchers are uncertain as to why these animals require darkness to eat, as even night vision cameras create too much light, and have yet to capture an eskimote meal.  In the wild, meals are carefully collected throughout the day, and stored in the deepest, darkest reaches of the burrow for optimal conditions for consumption.  Do not be alarmed by the high pitched squealing that accompanies meal time; though we don’t know exactly how they eat we know that the noise is normal for them.  
 Now that you’ve gotten a brief overview of the requirements of owning an eskimote, let’s touch on the joys.  Eskimotes are loyal, loving creatures who easily bond with their new family.  Within a week, you will open your freezer each morning to find your eskimote wide awake, and waiting to greet you with a wag of his wings, and a wiggle of his floppy ears.  A thorough scratch under the chin, and rub of his furry belly is all your eskimote needs to know you care.  Purchase a temperature regulated eskimote ball, and watch him gambol around your living room.  In cold weather, he will relish his evening walk, and outdoor playtime.  Owning an eskimote may be challenging, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.  
 A word of caution, however, about attempting to bring a feral eskimote into your home; domesticated eskimotes may be gentle, and loving, but wild eskimotes are not.  On occasion, you may open a cooler, or chest freezer in a supermarket, or convenience store, and come face to bug-eyed face with an eskimote.  These are not friendly, lost pets looking for a new home; these are wild eskimotes who accidentally hitched a ride on a freezer truck, and are now simply trying to find a way home.  Wild eskimotes bite, scratch, and emit a high-pitched wail that is extremely painful to human ears.  Call your local animal control officer, and let the experts handle it.  

 So, are you ready to welcome an eskimote into your family?  Remember that while a freshly weaned eskimitten is adorable, there are many abandoned adult eskimotes waiting in shelters for a forever home.  Consider adopting, instead of shopping.  But no matter where you find your new family member, enjoy the love they bring, and remember to follow these guidelines to keep your eskimote healthy, and happy!  

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