October 30, 2012

Introducing: Creature Feature

I've had a lot of friends and family tell me how much they loooove reading about my life as the Outreach Coordinator at the Alaska Zoo.  So, when I was hanging out with one of my furry friends the other day, I thought why not start something new?  Every week [or at least until I get bored of it], I will bring you "Creature Feature", a glimpse into the lives of some of my furry, and feathery, Alaskan animal friends. 

Love it? Feel free to leave me a comment!  Have a question about the Zoo or what I do? How we train an animal for outreach? Or maybe about an Alaskan animal inparticular? Ask away!



Red fox

The red fox, best known for it's reputation as a cunning and intelligent animal, is common in most of northern North America and throughout Alaska.  They are members of the dog family and their general appearance is similar to domestic dogs, wolves and coyotes.  An adult weighs from 6 to 15 pounds, but they always appear heavier than they actually are, probably due to their thick fur coats in the winter. 

Red fox are easily recognized by their reddish coats, however, not all red foxes are red!  They have many color variations including red, silver, black or cross.  The white tip on the tail is what distinguishes this fox from other species, regardless of its color phase.  Although red is definitely the most common color phase, several color phases can occur in a litter, similar to a person having different color hair than their siblings. 

The red fox is an omnivorous animal, and often opportunistic.  They will eat both plants and meat, but similar to a omnivorous human prefering a juicy steak over some brussel sprouts, red fox also prefer their meat, often hunting smaller animals, such as voles, muskrats, squirrels, hares, birds and bird eggs.  While related to wolves, their hunting style is entirely different.  They are solitary animals, hunting by themselves, and mostly like a cat, with the stalk and pounce approach.  With their excellent hearing and sense of smell, they can pinpoint the vole, sometimes under snow and leaves, creep up to it quietly and then pounce six feet in the air, pinning it to the ground.  They've got some serious skills.

Here are some pictures of my red fox friends...

I currently work hands-on with three of our seven red fox, taking one to visit students in their classrooms and training the other two in hopes that they too can becomeeducation animals and teach others all about their wonderful species! I am in the process of halter training my man Mac (red phase above) and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of.

Outreach at Potter Marsh Discovery Day with Chance.
(Photo by Christie Stryk)
Left: Outreach at Potter Marsh Discovery Day with Chance
Right: Mac training session.

(Photos by Christie Stryk)


The Alaska Zoo a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to promoting conservation of Arctic, sub-Arctic and like-climate species through education, research and community enrichment. We have provided a home for injured, orphaned and captive-born animals for over four decasdes and are proud to offer quality programs and events for Alaskans and visitors. If you are ever in Anchorage, make sure you visit us! For more information on my furry friend the red fox, visit the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's website here.


October 24, 2012

Enter at Your Own Risk

Our household has been dubbed "the Sick Ward" (hahaha get it?!).  A snippet from today's article in the Anchorage Daily News...

" Ward said Donovan's shot hit him in a tiny unprotected area of his leg, just about the boot of his skate and just below the bottom of his shin pad - "It couldn't have hit me in a more perfect spot, " he said.

So, tough times in the Ward-Lafranchise household, which includes Ward's fiancee, Marla Wales.

"It's probably toughest on my fiancee because she has to deal with the both of us," Ward said."

Enter at your own risk, or your might get "screwed".  (Ok ok, enough with the puns.)

Read the entire ADN article here.


October 21, 2012

How Was Your Weekend?

How was your weekend?

What was looking to be a relaxing weekend after a horrible week, one full of hockey, sleeping in, nature walks and maybe even topped off with drinks with friends, quickly became very unpleasant. We spent our Saturday night/Sunday morning in a place nobody wants to spend their weekend, or any time at all for that matter... the hospital.

Yep, that's right.  The hospital. 

Long story short, Captain Steve blocked a shot in the first period of Saturday's game, resulting in a broken fibula (leg) and some serious hardware.  Safe to say, apartment 8 has had a very bad week (our roomie is out with a concussion). Read more about it here.

Definitely could have been worse, but 6 weeks can't go by fast enough. 

Hoping for a speeding recovery!


October 18, 2012

Happy Alaska Day!

Happy Alaska Day!

Alaska Day marks the anniversary of the formal transfer of the territory from Russia to the United States and the raising of the United States flag at Sitka, AK on October 18, 1867. The U.S. bought the territory from Russia for $7.2 million dollars, which works out to under 2 cents an acre.  Alaska maintained its status as a territory until it became the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959.

No big celebrations here, but it does mean a 3-day weekend for some Alaskan residents.

In honor of Alaska Day, here are some more facts about the last frontier,

  • Alaska is 2x the size of Texas.
  • Alaska has 1/2 the world's glaciers (an estimated 100,000, covering approximately 5% of the state).
  • State motto: "North to the Future"
  • State flower: forget-me-not
  • State bird: Willow ptarmigan
  • State fish: King salmon
  • Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. (Mt McKinley, or Denali, is the highest at 20,320 ft. above sea level).
  • There are more than 3,000 rivers, 3 million lakes and 70 active volcanoes in the state.
  • Each year Alaska has approximately 5,000 earthquakes, including 1,000 that measure above 3.5 on the Richter scale. (Of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the world, three have occurred in Alaska.)

Today also marks 2 years in AK for Steve and I.  Time really flies when you're having fun! It still feels like yesterday, getting the news as I was standing in Walmart preparing for a drive down to South Carolina. Five days later we were boarding a plane, not knowing what was ahead of us. It's been an INCREDIBLE two years and I wouldn't change a thing.

If you ever get the opportunity to visit the great state of Alaska TAKE IT.  This place steals a piece of your heart and you won't regret it for a second.


October 17, 2012

Proud Fiancée

Pretty proud of this guy. Click here to see why.


October 13, 2012


Today was Wolf Day at the Alaska Zoo.  Here are some pictures of my furry, four-legged canine friends...

Isn't Lucky a good looking wolf?

They had a howling contest of their own!

Can't forget our boys Mac and Trip, the red fox...

Protecting his goody bag.

I don't know what I love more about this picture - Trip and how gorgeous he is or the falling snow.

My love Mac.  

I think it's pretty obvious... we LOVE our jobs!


October 8, 2012


I love my little corner of southern Ontario.  Yes it's flat and farmers' fields may replace the mountains, but there's something about being able to see the sky go on for miles and miles that I truly love. But what I love the most is how close I am to the water. I love Lake Huron...  I MISS Lake Huron.

Growing up I couldn't wait to get out.  To leave my little corner and explore what the rest of the world has to offer.  Now, I get excited to go back - to plan my visits, to see loved ones and to see the lake.

No matter where we are in the world, no matter what kind of adventure we're on, this will forever be home.


October 4, 2012

True Story.


I love Alaska.


October 3, 2012

Miss Me?

Have you missed me?  Sorry I've been MIA.  But, I promise it's been for some VERY important reasons.

Lots of events have taken place over the past couple of weeks, one you could even call life-changing.

In the past few weeks we've a) moved back into "the dorms" (locked ourselves out on the second night back in - not too proud of that one), b) ventured back to southern Ontario to get some quality family and friend time before winter, c) got back in the swing of hockey preseason AND d) had out first snowfall in Anchorage. Not to mention I've been crazy busy at work! 

Oh ya... And that event we can call life-changing?.... Wait for it... 

Wait for it....


Oh it feels so good to finally let it out.  All I've wanted to do since it happened was scream it from the rooftops for all to hear. But of course, we had to tell family first.

It happened a few Sundays ago. We went on a walk to Kincaid Park Beach, possibly our favorite spot in Anchorage. And in true Steve and Mar fashion, it was pissing rain.  We were sitting on a piece of driftwood, and all of a sudden Steve dropped to one knee and popped the question.  I can't tell you what he said, or even what I said for that matter, I kind of blacked out. I was in shock.  Did not see it coming. at. all. There were tears, but it was hard to tell because the rain was also whipping me in the face. 

In my mind it went a little something like this... a scene straight from the Notebook...

In reality, I'm pretty sure I had mascara running down my face. 

Mascara or not, it was beyond perfect.

Obviously I have to show it off.  Steve did an amazing job designing it.  I'm obsessed. These pics were taken at my parents' brand spanking new house on Lake Huron. I am also obsessed with that.

Titus so happy to have us both back... or already bored of us by the look on his small face in this picture.

Let the planning, and pinning, begin!

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