Every veterinarian has their least favorite patients. For Dr. Michelle Oakley of “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet,” that would be the parrot.
“Parrots always get me,” she says. “I’ll take a bear or moose or muskox any day, but the little parrots always – I’m always happy to get out with all my digits. … I met Dr. K recently, Susan Kelleher who’s also on Natgeo Wild (on ‘Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER’), and she was great with exotics, with parrots especially. She’s like, ‘Oh, they’re easy.’ And then she showed me her arms were covered in scratches and I was like, ‘Oh, not so easy.’ ”
As “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet” airs its sixth season Saturdays on Natgeo Wild (and Thursdays on National Geographic Canada in her adopted homeland), the Indiana native continues treating all manner of wildlife native to Northern Canada, ranging from timber wolves, boar and caribou to lynx, owl and bison, both in the field and at her Haines Junction, Yukon, clinic. Daughters Sierra and Maya return to help her.
This season, cameras follow Oakley overseas to capture her work on several projects, among them studying the growth of the grizzly bear population in Scandinavia and tracking ibex (a long-horned goat) in the French Alps.
Despite the show reaching millions internationally, Oakley says she doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition as a celebrity when she’s out in public, save for the odd fan encounter at an airport or at any of the remote clinics she works at. The people in her town of around 600 still regard her as the town vet.
“I know everyone in town so no one’s like, ‘Oh, there’s Dr. Oakley,’ ” she says. “If they see me, they want to come talk to me about their dog’s anal gland or something.”
Dr. Michelle Oakley
Full name: Michelle Plantinga Oakley
Birth date: Sept. 15
Birthplace: Munster, Ind.
Residence: Haines Junction, Yukon
Family ties: With husband Shane, a wildland firefighter, has daughters Sierra, Maya and Willow
Education: Bachelor’s degree in zoology from University of Michigan; Doctorate in veterinary medicine from Atlantic Veterinary College
Scariest encounter with an animal patient: A brown bear that stood up in front of her and Maya after being anesthetized. “There’s nothing more terrifying than standing there and seeing a bear standing up taller than you and he’s just standing at eye level. But there’s one thing that’s more terrifying than that and that’s seeing your daughter between you and that bear. … But she just kept her head.”
Pets: An Australian shepherd and a pug