Otters in the tub, moose in the porch: family living on the wild side

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By Sharon Montgomery-Dupe
HUNTINGTON, N.S. — One might say this Cape Breton family lives a bit on the wild side.

The two piglets currently being raised in the Huntington home. Submitted photo
The two piglets currently being raised in the Huntington home. Submitted photo
Johnny Huntington, the manager of the Two Rivers Wildlife Park in Huntington, near Marion Bridge, and his wife Kelly, who is also employed there, have had lots of unique houseguests over the years.

These days, their living room is shared with two piglets who are only days old.

“The sow had 16 and couldn’t look after them all. They would have died,” explains Kelly.

“The kids are helping to bottle feed them.”

Most of the animals that needed extra care and ended up at his home over the last 36 years since the park opened were there because there simply wouldn’t be anyone to look after them otherwise.

At one time the Two Rivers Wildlife Park was run by the Department of Natural Resources. But when funding was cut, Johnny said they started a non-profit association in 1996 to save the park.

Recalling some of the animals, Kelly said they brought an abandoned newborn fawn home once, which it had to be fed during the night. They set up a spot for the fawn in a corner of their bedroom on a blanket.

“The fawn was trying to get up on our bed,” she said.

“It would come over and put its front legs up on the bed, we’d have to take it back over to the corner of the room and settle it down.”

Kelly said a most memorable houseguest came about 13 years ago, when a woman found a three-day old moose calf under her boat.

“The mother was found up the road, she had been hit by a car.”

Kelly said they brought the calf –which they named Millie — home.

“It stayed between the porch and our living room.”

She said Johnny looked after Millie and eventually she was taken to the park. However by this time Millie thought Johnny was her mother and refused to eat unless Johnny fed her. He even had to go in on his days off to look after her.

“When she’d hear Johnny’s voice she’d come bouncing out of the compound, would be so excited she’d start running in circles.”

Sadly Millie — who had become a park favourite — died in 2013.

However some animals they have brought home not only occupied space in their living room, but also their bathtub. Kelly said they cared for park otters Peanut Butter and Jelly, who were brought home at only two days old.

“They are water animals so we had to make sure they had water to get into, “she said.

“We had them in a Tupperware container first, then in our sink, then the tub.”

The otters lived with them for about two months before getting their own enclosure at the park.

The Huntingtons also raised two baby cougars.

Kelly remembers it was an Easter weekend, snowing and cold. The cougars were born in captivity, but their mother abandoned them.

“They were only six hours old when we brought them home.”

Advertisement – Article continues belowThe cougars reminded them of kittens and were kept in a box with a heating pad.

“They were adorable, we’d play with them on the bed.”

There was also a goose that was actually hatched at their home — named Delilah —before going to live at the park.

“The kids use to take her for walks and on the trampoline.”

Delilah actually became quite well known after becoming infatuated with their park employee Brad Warden, which the Cape Breton Post published a story about in 2011.

“She wouldn’t even let Brad’s wife near him.”

They have also incubated and hatched peacocks and turkeys.

“We have two peacock eggs in our living room we are incubating now,” said Kelly.

Kelly said their four children Telsi-Lynn, 19, Shyla, 17, Phalen, 14, and John Evan, 12, were brought up with wild animals in the home and have always played a big part in their care.

“They are here now making sure they flip the Peacock eggs a couple times a day.”

Some animal guests have left a lasting reminder of their visit, most recently it was from three orphaned baby skunks.

Kelly said Johnny picked them up from Shubenacadie Wildlife Park a couple weeks ago. It was late when he arrived in Cape Breton, so he just brought them straight home.

“They spent their first night and the better part of the next day here in our kitchen and living room.”

There hadn’t been time to have them de-scented yet.

Kelly said one of her daughters picked one of the skunks up and it squirted a little at her.

“It was pretty stinky but nothing like the adult one would be. It kind of squirted in the air.

“I had to clean for quite a while,” she added laughing.

Kelly said they also raised a chinchilla in their house, have had raccoons, a lama, red fox and a coyote.

However, when they don’t have visitors there is no lack of animal magnetism in the home as the Huntington family also have cows, three horses, three border collies, three cats and even a pet turkey named, ‘Mrs. Turkey.’

“She’s super friendly, just like a dog. As soon as she hears activity in the house in the morning she comes down over the hill and waits out on the porch for someone to come out and give her a scratch on the head.

She eats out of the dish with the dogs.”

The Two Rivers Wildlife Park includes more than 50 species of wildlife and more than 100 animals, as well as a petting zoo, hiking, and winter recreation such as cross-country ski trails and sleigh rides and offers camping facilities in the summer.

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