Kotori in igloo

Kotori the Tiny Owl

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Wildlife Safari’s ambassador animals come in lots of shapes and sizes. One of our feathered friends that goes out into the community is a small owl by the name of Kotori. Kotori is a Western Screech owl, native to Oregon.

Kotori may look tiny, but she is fully grown. Western Screech owls in the wild will tend to hunt small mice, frogs or lizards (although mice are Kotori’s particular favorite).

Kotori the Western Screech Owl

Kotori the Western Screech Owl

Although she is small, she’s packed full of attitude. “She has a perfect  glare that she will give if we move her house, bother her, or pick her up when she doesn’t want to be,” says Julianne Rose, Lead Educator and one of Kotori’s keepers. While she might give her keepers some sass, she loves the change in environment that outreaches bring, and is comfortable being out and about. “She loves being out and about in the great outdoors and shes great with small children and big groups,” says Rose.

In the wild, birds like Kotori spend most of their time perched in a tree checking out their surroundings, and Kotori holds onto those instincts, enjoying any way she can be high up and get a good view. “Anything she can perch on shes a huge fan of,” says Rose. “Things like large stuffed animals, large branches, twigs, elevated perches – though not too high because she is missing a wing – and anything she can hide in, like boxes, igloos.. ”

Sleepy Kotori

Sleepy Kotori

Apart from her grumpiness, she has lots of other ways in which she shows her personality. She won’t eat in front of her keepers, preferring to wait until everyone has left, and she LOVES to bathe in her water dish. Keepers are often greeted in the morning with evidence of her pool parties – water everywhere!

Keeper Julianne gets Kotori ready for an outreach

Keeper Julianne gets Kotori ready for an outreach

Kotori’s missing wing is the reason she has a home here at Wildlife Safari. Although she started life in the wild, she was in a car accident and now could not survive if left to fend for herself. “She was a wild owl that had a collision with a truck,” explains Rose. “Either the driver or some other kind soul took her to a rehab clinic. They tried their darndest,  but they realized that she was not going to be releasable. That wing break was too severe and would not be able to mend itself. So she did lose a wing, and obviously as a predator that would not be good for her in the wild, she would not be able to catch the food she needed, and since she is a small owl she wouldn’t be able to escape from things that were trying to eat her. “

Kotori with Keeper Julianne

Kotori with Keeper Julianne

Despite having a rough start, Kotori now has a happy life here at the park, and while she might be sassy, her big eyes peering at you from a small bundle of feathers is pretty darn cute. If you ever see one of our animal shows or outreaches you may get to meet her!

Tracy with Tava

The Big Times – Working with Elephants

Elephants, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

Wildlife Safari is home to many creatures, from the tiny to the huge! The Elephant department looks after the biggest of the bunch. With five elephants, this herd keeps their care takers pretty busy! George (35 yrs), Tava (38), Valerie (34) and Moja (34) are African elephants, with their characteristic large ears and overall body size. Liz (52) is the only Asian elephant in the troop, but this doesn’t stop her from being in charge. As the matriarch of the group she demands respect. “She’s a tough cookie,” says Elephant Supervisor Dinah Wilson about Liz. “She has strength, attitude, confidence –  comfortable in any setting.”

All the elephants have their own distinct personalities, and their keepers love getting to know them and spending time with them. George wins everyone’s hearts with his charm and sweet disposition; Tava loves her training sessions – she strives for perfection and loves to learn; Moja is very inquisitive (with the largest ears anyone has ever seen); and Valerie is super playful – toys or no she’ll find a way to have fun, even if it’s throwing dust!

Tracy with Tava

Keeper Tracy with Tava, an African elephant

 

With five large animals there is a lot of cleaning to be done, which takes up most of the keepers’ day. Then comes the husbandry work, the time where keepers make sure everyone is happy and healthy. Bathing, brushing, foot checks and overall health checks are important parts of making sure the elephants are at their best. “Then there is the training and interaction,” says Tracy Moser, Elephant Keeper. “Where we work with the elephants, giving them the chance to do exercises or physical therapy, do things that are stimulating and enriching for their brains as well as bodies – and of course letting guests meet the elephants!”

Keeper Tracy with Moja, an African Elephant

Keeper Tracy with Moja, an African Elephant

Working with such large and intelligent animals is incredible, but comes with a unique set of challenges.”You have to be a couple steps ahead, because they’ll be a couple steps ahead of you,” says keeper Courtney. “Everything here is big – large yards, gates, everything. Enrichment items are also very big, so you have to be pretty strong.”

Their intelligence makes training sessions particularly interesting. “You’re not just training an animal to robotically perform a behaviour – they will work in tandem with you to make it the way you want it. It’s really neat – different from any other animal,” says Courtney.

Smiles

 

“Seeing how intelligent they are, that’s the most impressive thing about them. They have such distinct personalities and the way you can bond with them,” says Wilson, who has worked with elephants for 40 years. “It’s complex, there are a lot of different aspects to providing proper care, and safety too.” Safety considerations are vital when working with such huge, smart creatures. With trunks that stretch so far, and the strength to pick up large objects, keepers need to be aware at all times, and considerable thought needs to go into what toys they can play with.

Although there are an abundance of wonderful things about being close to such amazing animals, Wilson says that what she loves most about her work is seeing the bond that keepers form with the animals. Watching her staff develop their training relationships with the elephants is the most rewarding part of her job as supervisor. “It’s so much fun to see those relationships develop,” she says.

Full of rewarding hard work and fun with the elephants, staff love each day there, and love introducing people to these amazing animals. “No day is boring here,” says Wilson – so come and see it for yourself!

 

 

 

Winter Camp crafts

For the Love of Learning!

Behind the Scenes, Community, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

Nestled in behind Safari Village is the Wildlife Safari Education building. Home to snakes, birds, cavies and many more, the Education building is always a hive of activity. The Education department hosts tours, day camps, overnight adventures, and zookeepers-in-training. Since teaching people about animals and the environment is a vital part of conservation, the Education team have an important role.

Julianne w ponderosa

Education Lead, Julianne with Ponderosa the Red Tail Boa

Everyday involves a mix of animal husbandry and working with people of all ages. “We provide a lot of really hands on encounters with the animals, which is very rewarding for us, as well as for the public – to have those intimate interactions with the animals,” says Kendra Hodgson, Summer Camp Coordinator “It’s cool how much our senses are involved in education with the things that we do, many people need to touch and create, and see things close up – it really builds those connections.”

As well as the hands on animal work that they do, Education staff love sharing their passion for conservation and their interest in animals. It’s a unique joy to see people connecting with the animals and the smiles as they understand the amazing ways animals are built and behave. Harleena Franklin, who is interning with the department says that her favorite part of the job is interacting with people and watching them learn. “It’s instant gratification to see someone understand something,” she says.

J talk w Kotori

Julianne with Western Screech owl, Kotori

Although they work with people of all ages, with camps and school outreaches, the Education team has a big focus working with kids. While this often makes work more fun and games than “work” it definitely poses it’s challenges. “Kids are in need of a lot more stimuli than adults, so it can be a lot more fun, but a lot more challenging than working with adults,” says Hodgson. Having kids around can also take your day in some unexpected directions. Caitlin Huff, Junior Zookeeper Coordinator, says that last year she became safe-keeper of a tooth that had fallen out. A very important job for sure, but not quite what she had expected earlier in the day. (Update: the tooth made it safely to the tooth fairy.)

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Painting, making crafts, showing kids how to move like animals, the list goes on – this team definitely has its share of fun and games, but that’s only part of the reward staff get from being involved. The kids bring a special attitude and enthusiasm that the Education team loves to see. “Kids always have very unique ideas and approaches, they’re a lot easier to get engaged and caring about things,” says Huff.

“Kids ask a ton of questions, so it can be a lot of fun to be around a group of really engaging kids that want to learn things, says Mack Stamper, an intern in the education department. “They’re very receptive to answers – they are genuinely curious.”

Another unique and rewarding program is the partnership Wildlife Safari has with the Dillard Alternative High School. In this program, students spend 4 days a week at Safari and are able to complete their high school credits in a non-traditional way. They are taught High School English, Science and Math, while interacting with the animals and completing special animal projects. “This program is important to high school students who are unable to learn in a formal classroom setting,” explains Leila Goulet, Director of Education. “These classes allow students to learn in a hands-on way and use various forms of assessment to evaluate the students rather than traditional testing. This program has been highly successful and is even gaining tread with other schools!”

Staff, adults and kids all have tons of fun with our education programs, so keep an eye out on the Wildlife Safari website for chances to come join in!

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Keeping it Cool

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Cheetahs, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

With the hot summer sun heating up our days, many of the animals at Wildlife Safari are getting ice treats!

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Bandit the American Badger enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Pancake, Wildlife Safari's youngest cheetah, investigates some ice cubes

Pancake, Wildlife Safari’s youngest cheetah, investigates some ice cubes

Whether it’s ice to cool down or play with, or popsicle treats, its a good way for the animals to cool down and a more challenging way to get a snack!

Black bears enjoying a fruit popsicle!

Black bears enjoying a fruit popsicle!

 

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Elephant Artists

Behind the Scenes, Elephants, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized
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Painting supplies at the elephant barn – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Elephants are known for their intelligence, but not everyone knows about their finesse as artists! At Wildlife Safari, our elephants paint as an enrichment activity – something fun for them to do – but it also allows people to take home a unique keepsake. Not everyone has a painting done by an elephant in their gallery!

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Keeper Courtney cleans up after a painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

The elephants paint on a lot of their encounters. It makes a good training exercise for them, and elephants are always happy for their snack rewards! “It’s fun for the elephants to do, but it’s also fun for the guests to watch,” says Tracy Moser, one of the Elephant Keepers at Wildlife Safari. “We work with the elephants to hold onto a sponge,” she explains. “We figured a sponge would work better than a paint brush since elephants have a lot of moisture in their nose which can drip down onto the canvas. While they hold onto the sponge, one of the staff will hold the canvas in front of them and they’ll stretch out their nose and paint however they like!”

Typically a painting will have three or four colors before it is pronounced complete. Then comes the clean up part of the session. “When they are done they will politely hand their sponge back to their trainer,” says Moser. Then it’s time for some trunk cleaning to get rid of any paint drips on the artist’s nose.

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Elephant painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

The elephant’s also make foot print paintings! For these the elephants take a more laid back approach, allowing their keepers to paint and stamp with their feet rather than compose the painting themselves. “George in particular has impressive feet since he is our largest elephant. so we do a lot of foot prints with him,” says Moser. “We do back and front foot pints, and what’s neat about that is they look completely different, because the shape is different.”

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Keeper Nick holds the canvas for an elephant painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Every painting is different and is an expression of that elephant artist’s personality, whether they are slow and careful or fast and eccentric. “All of our elephants have a different style to their paintings, a different technique,” says Moser.

Just some paint, a sponge and an elephant and you end up with a master piece!

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The finished product! – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

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Aviary Adventures

Community, Uncategorized

Wildlife Safari is home to lots of birds, of all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. The ones that can happily and safely live together (I.e. NOT the birds of prey) hang out in the aviary.

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Wildlife Safari’s Aviary – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

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Curious faces – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

Visitors can actually go inside with these guys and even give them snacks! It’s a bird lover’s dream, surrounded by all sorts of small, feathered friends.

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Birds preening in the aviary – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

Between 11:30am and 2:30pm anyone is welcome to go visit the aviary, and bird snack sticks are available there for only a dollar!

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Snacking on a feed stick – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

Keeper Pets

Behind the Scenes, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

The keepers at Wildlife Safari have a real love for animals. Not only do they choose to work with and look after animals everyday at the park, many keepers also have animals at home too! These animal family members come in all shapes and sizes, from furry to scaly.

Because we love our animals at home just as much as the wild and wonderful ones at work, the keepers of Wildlife Safari have some pictures of their little ones to share!

Brody has trouble staying awake after his walks - photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

Brody has trouble staying awake after his walks with Carnivore keeper, Jordan

Hudson is growing fast and keeping keeper Taylor's hands full!

Hudson is growing fast and keeping keeper Taylor’s hands full!

This whacky boy loves adventures with keeper Melissa

This wacky boy loves adventures with keeper Melissa

Buddy loves the wind in his hair while keeper Sarah drives

Buddy loves the wind in his hair while keeper Sarah drives

Pandora likes to use keeper Allison as a climbing structure - Even when shes trying to sleep.

Pandora likes to use keeper Allison as a climbing structure – Even when shes trying to sleep.

Gatsby takes a short rest - stealing all keeper Mikaely's socks sure is exhausting!

Gatsby takes a short rest – stealing all keeper Mikaely’s socks sure is exhausting!

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The biggest little one at Safari

Keeper Chats, Ungulates

This month is a very special time at Wildlife Safari as we celebrate the birth of our first giraffe calf born here since the park began. Little Kelley came into the world at over 6 feet tall, though he looks small next to mother, Miya, our 4 year old reticulated giraffe, and even smaller next to father, Mate, our 17 year old Rothschild giraffe who is our tallest at 18 feet.

 

Baby Kelley and mom Miya – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

The birth has been much anticipated. Since giraffe gestation is around 14 months, keepers have had a while to get excited for this spotted little one! Katie Graves, one of the giraffe keepers and trainers at Wildlife Safari talks about the anticipation through the pregnancy. “Gestation is typically 13-15 months,” she says, and with such a wide window for the due date, keepers were carefully watching for signs of labor long before the birth. “They’re big babies so they have a little longer to bake. They usually come out around 6 ft tall and anywhere from 100-200 lbs at birth. At birth, Kelley was about 6 foot 3 inches and weighed 175 lbs. So he’s very robust and healthy.”

 

Baby giraffe, Kelley -photo courtesy of Tanda Schmidt

Unlike many other animals, herd animals like giraffes need to be able to move by themselves soon after birth to escape predators. “He stood up just a couple of hours after birth and shortly afterwards took his first steps,” says Graves. “He was very strong, he even caught himself when he stumbled.”

 

Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Kelley’s birth is cause for celebration at the park as he is the first giraffe to be born here. “For all of us this is the first time we’ve been through a giraffe pregnancy and birth, so we’re all excited,” says Graves. “Being there for the birth was an amazing experience, and a huge learning experience.”

 

Kelley nursing – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

At the moment, Kelley is mostly spending time in the barn with his mother, but he has been meeting lots of new friends as guests of the park can sign up to meet him! It’s very special to be able to see a young giraffe, so come see his while he’s “small”! Encounter times may change as he grows, so check with Guest Services before signing up.

 

 

Sumatran Tiger Stripes

Beauty more than fur deep…

Uncategorized

You’re probably familiar with the characteristic spots on cheetahs, and stripes on tigers, but not many people have had the chance to look at them closely. These two species both have what we call “true” markings, where their spots or stripes go all the way down to the skin! This means that it is not just the fur that has these bold patterns, its their skin as well.

Riya the Sumatran tiger

Riya the Sumatran tiger

These patterns help them to camouflage and hide in their surroundings, helping them to sneak up on their prey unseen.


While they may seem pretty conspicuous up close, when they are in amongst grass or bushes in dappled sunlight they are extremely difficult to spot.

Bandit the American Badger

Bandit the Badger

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature

Normally found in either his den or his dig box, Bandit the American Badger has a pretty relaxed life here at Wildlife Safari. Aptly named, Bandit tends to steal people’s hearts with his wonderful personality and incredible good looks.

Bandit the American Badger

Bandit the American Badger

Like all badgers, Bandit has a passion for digging. Whether its in his dig box, or in the gardens while on a walk with his keepers, once he starts digging he won’t stop until he finds something interesting or has a big enough hole to lay down in. “Being a fossorial animal, he absolutely loves digging,” says Leila Goulet, Director of Education at Wildlife Safari, and one of Bandit’s keepers. Which leads us to another of Bandit’s passions: napping.

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Badgers go into what we call a torpor during the winter months, which is a kind of hibernation. It isn’t as complete as other forms of hibernation, for example bears will not eat or go to the bathroom for their entire four months. Instead, badgers will choose to sleep through many of the colder days of winter, relying on their stores of fat built up in the summer months, but will get up and find food if the weather is mild enough.

Bandit in his den box

Bandit in his den box

Badgers are omnivores, which means they eat meat, vegetables and fruit. For their meat they will usually eat mice, small birds or chicks, eggs and insects. The rest of their food they will forage for and it will depend on what is growing in their area, changing seasonally. Bandit loves berries of any kind, the juicier the better! He is not, however, a fan of anything green. Whenever keepers try to see if broccoli or green beans are acceptable to him, they usually find them in his dig box the next day – apparently the offending vegetable must be put out of site. His attitude towards greens does change though if they are slathered in mashed raspberries!

Badgers are known for their aggression – they are solitary creatures and quite territorial. “Badgers are very spunky animals,” says Julianne Rose, Lead Educator at Wildlife Safari and one of Bandit’s keepers. “An American Badger will challenge large animals like bears that wander into their territory.” Bandit, however, has been hand raised. Orphaned when he was young and taken in by a family who passed him along to Wildlife Safari when he became too rambunctious. Since he is used to human contact and attention, rather than being aggressive, Bandit is actually quite affectionate towards his keepers. He is particularly fond of back scratches.

Bandit enjoying a cardboard box

Bandit enjoying a cardboard box

Bandit is trained to do a number of things that make it easier for his keepers to look after him, including going into his travel crate and stationing on a mat for his harness to be put on. Badgers are very clever creatures, which is helpful for foraging for food, and for learning things with training, but can lead to some stubbornness. If an animal is smart enough to work out how to do something, they are generally smart enough to work out how NOT to do it. “Bandit is extremely intelligent, which means that he also has the luxury of being extremely stubborn,” Goulet explains. “When we were teaching him how to go into his travel crate on his own, he realized what we were asking him to do and went inside. The only catch was that he didn’t want us to close the door, so he made sure that he stuck his back paw outside so that we wouldn’t be able to close it!”

One of the ways Bandit charms everyone he meets is through his playfulness. Although, this can hinder some of the duties his keepers need to complete. “One afternoon while I was cleaning his enclosure, he attempted to pull the broom out of my hands. When this failed, he ran to the dustpan, kicked everything out and sat on it,” says Rose.

Bandit helping his keepers clean his enclosure

Bandit “helping” his keepers clean his enclosure

While Bandit’s “help” with cleaning is just for his keepers to handle, you can see him displaying his digging skills in Safari Village! Check the sign on the dig box outside of the gift shop to see what time he’ll be arriving to play!

Bandit's dig box in Safari Village

Bandit’s dig box in Safari Village