to ship a male Dall sheep,” said Frank. “He was in the back of Sheep Mountain and he jumped out of the yard, ran across the Zoo (with several zookeepers giving chase) and almost made it to Blue Mound Rd. He was darted with a tranquilizer and never got off Zoo grounds.” The Dall sheep exhibit was changed so that can’t happen again. A more dramatic escape occurred during the Zoo’s first Behind the Scenes Weekend, Nov. 14, 1993. “A visitor who happened to be a Milwaukee Journal photographer looked up and saw a cheetah looking down at him—with no barrier in between. Apparently the cheetah had shimmied up between a tree and the exhibit’s gunite rock work to reach the roof. We had trees growing very close to the gunite then. The trees are no longer there.” It took three women to get the young cheetah down. Because the cheetah had been hand-raised by women, he was not threatened when Bess Frank, zookeeper Valerie Werner, and Dr. Roberta Wallace (senior vet- erinarian) climbed up on the roof to calm him and give him a tranquilizer. “He fell sleep and we got him down through a hatch on the roof,” said Frank. (1996). History, in fact, has been one of her pet projects at the Zoo. She has gathered bits of Zoo history (including animal records dating to 1893) and created a Zoo archive, becoming the official Zoo historian. She had help from professional archivists, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate student, and a Zoo Pride volunteer. She is proud of the fact that the Zoo launched a per- manent historical timeline, included as part of its general Web site, last October (see box). One of the Zoo’s Dall sheep was heading out to become the new herd male at the Chahinkapa Zoo in Walpeton, N.D. Bess Frank and Tom Schmaltz, a curator at Chahinkapa, gently helped it into a shipping container. A typical day as curator (she’s one of four) offers Frank lots of variety. Take last Oct. 6. She started the day by bringing in raspberry stalks from her house (where she lives with husband and entrepreneur Dennis Frank) to feed the great apes, bears and red pandas. She read the daily reports from zookeepers, checked 108 e-mails, talked with the Zoo’s two veteri- narians, visited every one of the large-mammals areas she’s in charge of and talked with the keepers, found a home at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia for a young male impala born at our Zoo in November 2005, dealt with a staff scheduling problem, and answered questions from a caller in Minnesota about deer sterilization. Deer sterilization? Yes, well, Bess Frank is somewhat of an expert on that subject. “This is my main research,” she said. It all came about when they were trying to reduce the wild white-tailed deer population on Zoo grounds to avoid heavy plant damage. Frank investigated contraceptives and sterilization and presented research papers on the topic. A city in Illinois has used some of the research to deal with its deer prob- lem. Actually the Zoo was deer-free for 10 years, said Frank, but wild deer came back in 2005. “Our perimeter fence is not deer-proof,” she noted. While the Zoo would like to keep wild deer out, it sometimes has chal- lenges keeping the exhibit animals in. There was the case of the bolting Dall sheep. “We were getting ready What is Frank’s most poignant memory of her years at the Zoo? “We had to hand-raise two baby giraffes [at different times] whose mothers couldn’t care for them. One of them, Jigsaw, who had pneumonia, we could see wasn’t going to make it. The other, Skye, lived.” She became somewhat of a star in the Milwaukee media, and then she eventually went to the Sacramento Zoo. Clipping Sasha the lion’s toenails is one of many health-care proce- dures the staff does when an animal is anesthetized. Here Frank works with veterinary resident Dr. Gretchen Cole. Paperwork Stars rise and stars fall. Bess Frank, who turned 55 Nov. 21, was planning her retirement for this February as the autumn leaves were falling and the winter constellations were taking over the night sky. Ah, if only there were a moose among the constellations, we might know where Bess Frank will go next. Paperwork: Frank handles loads of paper- work on a day when she and Dr. Vickie Clyde (in back), a Zoo veterinarian, were the only managers there to handle the animal staff. Phones -By Paula Brookmire
Phones: Wherever she goes, Frank usually ends up on the phone. Here’s it’s in Winter Quarters, the underground area below the feline facility and home to zebras, eland and other warm-climate animals.
People: On her way across the Zoo she stops to answer some questions from a group of visitors.
Share Your Memories
Have a favorite experience or picture at the Milwaukee County Zoo that you’d like to share? Or perhaps you just want to find out what was the highlight of the Zoo the year you were born. Visit the Zoo’s Web site, www.milwaukeezoo.org/timeline, and you can view of timeline of Zoo highlights over the years. Or, you can share your memories and photos. Submissions may become part of the Zoo’s permanent archives.
Alive WINTER 2007