Meet our Ostriches!

Creature Feature
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Desi, waiting to say hello to guest entering safari.

At Wildlife Safari we have three ostriches living throughout our North and South Africa sections. Both Truffle, one of our male ostriches, and Cordial, our female ostrich have been at the safari for around six years. Desi, our other male ostrich, has been at the safari for twenty four years. Ostriches can live up to 45 years so all of our ostriches are still in their prime! Male and female ostriches look very similar but there are ways to tell them apart. Male ostriches feathers are mostly black whereas females feathers are mostly brown. Males can also grow considerably taller than females. Females can reach heights of between 5’7 and 6’7 and males range from 6’11 up to 9’2.

Although ostriches have wings, they are one of many species of flightless birds. What they lack in flying they make up for in running. With their long legs they can reach speeds of up to 43 mph making them the fastest land bird. That means they can run 16 miles faster the the fastest man in the world! Some of their closest bird relatives include rheas and emus, both of which you can see in the asia section of the safari. Ostriches can weigh a lot more than most of their other bird relatives. Adults can weigh anywhere from 140-320 pounds.

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Cordial saying hello to a passing car

Ostriches are omnivores meaning they eat both meat and plants, although a much larger portion of their diet is plants such as grasses, fruits, and flowers. Our ostriches always enjoy when they recieve extra produce in their diets! Because of what they eat, ostriches can often go days without water getting most of their needed moisture from the plants they ingest.

Ostriches have large eyes. Each of their eyes are about the size of a billiard ball. Because their eyes take up so much space, there isn’t much room left for their brains. Ostrich brains are smaller than their eyes. Although they do have smaller brains relative to other bird species, they are still quite intelligent and resourceful.

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Cordial, our female ostrich, relaxing

A common misconception about ostriches is that when they’re scared, they stick their heads in the sand. While this isn’t true they often sleep with their heads flat against the ground giving the illusion that they are hiding. When spotted by a predator, ostriches will use their strong, long legs to run away usually out running their predators in Africa.

Ostriches reach sexual maturity at between two and four years, and usually form groups of one male and two to seven females. Although males will breed with many females in the surrounding area, they will only form a bond with one special female. Ostriches are known for having large eggs. They produce the largest egg of any bird species with each egg weighing close to three pounds. Even though their eggs are the largest mass wise, they actually are the smallest size relative to how large the adults are. A three pound egg could be just 1% of how large the female is. By contrast, a kiwi’s egg has the largest mass relative to its body weight at 15-20% of the mothers mass.       

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Truffle dancing for his favorite keepers

There’s a lot to love about ostriches, especially all of our ostriches. Each of our ostriches have very different personality, so make sure you find all three at your next visit to Wildlife Safari!

 

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Welcome to Safari, Sally!

Behind the Scenes, Community, Creature Feature, Uncategorized, Ungulates

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On March 4, 2018, Wildlife Safari’s group of giraffes had a new addition – baby Sally was born! At birth, Sally was 5’10” tall and weighed approximately 147 pounds. Sally is the second giraffe born at Wildlife Safari and her parents are safari resident giraffes Erin and Mate.

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Sally’s mother, Erin, is a first time mom and is doing an amazing job raising Sally. Baby giraffes learn how to use their tongues from their mothers, and luckily Erin is an expert at using her 15 inch long tongue. Sally is quickly learning from her! Wildlife Safari Ungulate keepers hang up different types of enrichment to encourage Sally to start practicing using her tongue. Some of Sally’s current favorite enrichment items are boomer balls, Madrone tree branches, and even a metal kitchen spoon! As seen in the above picture, Sally likes to take short naps throughout the day while laying down on a hay bed that keepers set up for her. Typically, adult giraffes only sleep around 4 hours a day in the form of short naps and stand up while they sleep, but it’s normal for baby giraffes to sleep more as well as sleep laying down.

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On average, female giraffes are pregnant for around 15 months. Since our keepers knew Erin was pregnant, they were able to keep a close watch on a video feed from cameras set up in our giraffe barn. They were also able to watch the birth live! Giraffes give birth while they are standing up so their baby drops about six feet down to the ground. While this may seem like a big drop to us, it helps break the umbilical cord and gets the baby to start breathing. Within a few hours of being born Sally was up and walking around, and within the first 24 hours she was able to run. Baby giraffes nurse from mom for about 12 months even though when they are a few weeks old they are able to start eating leaves as well.

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Recently, Sally was able to explore our outside yard for the first time. While the outdoors was a little overwhelming for Sally at first, luckily she had her mom with her as well as some fun enrichment toys to make her feel more comfortable. Sally was also recently introduced to one of our other three giraffes, Miya. The introduction went amazing – Miya is the mother the first giraffe calf born at the park- Kelley. Miya is used to babies running around and was very gentle with Sally.  Once the weather starts improving as we go into summer, Sally will be able to be introduced to our other giraffes and eventually go out into the drive-through. Next time you come visit Wildlife Safari look for Sally as she continues to grow and explore!

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The Fastest Land Mammal on Earth

Cheetahs, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

If there is one thing almost anyone could tell you about a cheetah is that they are fast; the fastest land mammal on the planet in fact. Reaching top speeds of 70 mph, cheetah’s can go from 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds. That is faster than almost any sports car on the market! Running speed is made up of two things: stride length and number of strides taken. A cheetah’s stride length is between 20-25 feet. This makes them airborne for a distance more than 5 times their length. Their feet spend more time in the air when running than on the ground. At top speed they can have up to 4 strides per seconds. But what is it exactly that make cheetahs so fast?

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The short answer is that their entire bodies are literally build for speed, from head to tail. Their long and slender build is aerodynamically purposeful, constructed to cut through wind with minimum resistance. This, along with a lightweight frame, allows for their impressive acceleration. A cheetah’s head is the smallest size relative to their bodies of any cat. This not only contributes to the aerodynamic design, but also allows them to keep their head completely still while running at full speed. The black markings found under their eyes are called “tear marks” and serve like the black paint under an athlete’s eye. This helps to reflect the sunlight out of their eyes while hunting at dawn and dusk. These markings also act like the sight on a riffle, allowing the cheetah to “aim” and further focus on its prey while hunting. In addition to these tear marks, cheetahs also have what is known as binocular vision. This useful feature enables them to see up to 3 miles away, allowing for the ability to spot and stalk prey from great distances.

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Another similarity to athletes are their semi-retractable claws, which act like cleats to dig into the ground while running. Cheetahs also have fused ankle bones which function like braces, along with extended Achilles tendons for better shock absorption. The tail of a cheetah is long and flat which acts like the rudder on a boat to help steer and balance while at full speeds.

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Although slender, cheetahs have a large chest cavity with sizable lungs and heart to pump air and blood to muscles while running at full force. Their shoulder blades are reduced and free floating which act like tiny axles for sharp, tight turns, even in mid air. This, along with pivoting hips, allows the legs to stretch farther apart when fully extended and closer together when the feet come back under the body, increasing their stride length.

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Many similarities can be drawn between the cheetah and another notoriously fast human companion; the grey hound. However, one key difference between the two is where the power source of their speed comes from. In grey hounds their power comes from where most people would guess: their hind legs. In cheetahs, the main power source for their speed comes from their spine. A cheetah’s spine is proportionally the longest and most flexible of any large cat. When running, the spine flexes and stretches like a coiled spring, which increases stride length. This long flexible spine carries about 60% of the cat’s muscle mass. As a result, the cheetah can out run a grey hound at full speed by 25-30 mph. However, a cheetah can only hold these high speeds for very short sprints of only 30 seconds or up to about 500 meters. So, in a long distance race the grey hound would have the edge. Another fascinating comparison is a cheetah vs. a human. The fastest man in the world is Usain Bolt who holds the 100m world record at 9.58 seconds. At top speeds a cheetah could cover a similar distance of an entire football field in just over 3 seconds. Although cheetahs have the ability to reach these incredible speeds, they only have use for it while hunting. Here at Wildlife Safari our cheetahs don’t have to hunt for their food, so most days you will find them perfectly content being at rest!

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Wildlife Safari’s Safe Haven for the Scimitar-horned Oryx

Community, Creature Feature, Uncategorized, Ungulates

While Wildlife Safari is one of the foremost cheetah breeding facilities in the world, our mission is focused on conservation for many different animals. In addition to our favorite big cats, the park is home to hundreds of animals, including the majestic Scimitar-horned Oryx! Currently Safari is home to three Oryx: Romeo, Juliet and Stubs! Originally, this species was found in abundant herds of over 10,000 individuals in the early nineteen hundreds. As a result of various environmental and anthropogenic factors, sadly the species recently endured a period of complete extinction in the wild. But with the help of conservation programs, new populations of Scimitar-horned Oryx are gradually being reintroduced.

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Pictured left to right, Romeo, Stubs, and Juliet enjoy resting in straw piles when they are not busy grazing.

While natively found within the Sahel region of Northern Africa, summers in Oregon share similar characteristics with this dry, arid grassland. Extreme heat and long periods of little rainfall are the very things a Scimitar-horned Oryx’s body is built for. The typical internal body temperature for any species of ungulates is around 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with 105 to 106 degrees rendering the animal’s brain dead. But the Scimitar-horned Oryx can withstand an internal body temperature of up to 116 degrees! A network of fine blood vessels carries blood from their heart to their brain but first makes a pass across their nasal passageway. This allows the blood to cool by up to five degrees before reaching the most heat sensitive organ in the body, the brain.
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An adorable Scimitar-horned Oryx poses for her closeup.

With a high tolerance to the heat, their bodies can conserve water by perspiring very little. Despite the drinkers and ponds found all throughout the park that allow our animals access to as much water as they please, the Scimitar-horned Oryx’s body is built to go months without it. Primarily stripping moisture from the plants they eat, the production of dry fecal pellets and highly concentrated urine helps their bodies to retain every possible drop.

The Scimitar-horned Oryx isn’t the only genus of Oryx found at Wildlife Safari. The park is also home to Gemsbok. Both native to Africa and roaming together within the park, the species are still easily distinguishable. The Scimitar Oryx, named for its scimitar-like horns, reach up to three to four feet in length and are slightly curved. Their primarily white pelage works to reflect the heat of the sun while the skin beneath their fur is black, aiding against sunburn. A Scimitar-horned oryx also bears a unique reddish-brown neck, while the Gemsbok is primarily tannish grey in color.
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While global efforts continue to help reintroduce the Scimitar-horned Oryx back into the wild, Wildlife Safari is proud to help aid in the care and conservation of such a unique species. Be sure to keep an eye out for Romeo, Juliet, and Stubs on your next adventure through the Safari!

Mountain Lions in Oregon: The Biggest Predator You Never See

Carnivores, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Just how likely are you to run into a fierce predator on your hike through a state park or national forest? Most of us assume it’s unlikely. The image that comes to mind is of rainforests or savannas housing tigers, lions and cheetahs. Those are half a world away from us, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

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With a distribution over two continents and the ability to adapt to a variety of climates, the mountain lion could be considered king of the American jungle. This species is the most widely distributed mammal in the Americas, with 30 subspecies and a bundle of common names including the cougar, puma, and panther. Mountain lions are on the bigger end of the smaller cats, weighing around 120-190 lbs. Their tan and reddish fur provide good cover in the trees and rocky mountains of both North and South America, while their classic felid jaws and claws aid in their ambush method of hunting of which there is a 70% success rate. Like most other cat species mountain lions are solitary animals, with the exception of mating and females with cubs.

Worldwide mountain lions are a species of least concern by the IUCN Redlist with an overall estimation of 30,000 individuals, but their numbers are starting to decrease. In fact, they aren’t found in the Eastern United States, after being hunted out in the last 200 years. The Pacific Northwest has a good portion of the United States’ mountain lions, with numbers around a few thousand in each state. They don’t appear to be limited by human activity, but rather by the amount of prey species available. In Oregon, the mountain lion population is estimated at 6,400 as of April 2017.

Each state monitors their populations in slightly different ways, and here the mountain lions fall under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Their goal is to keep the population above the 1994 level of 3,000 individuals. They also monitor the number of conflict animals in the state, or animals that cause damage to people’s property or person. These animals will be removed if necessary, and if the number of conflicts is too high or the prey species are suffering losses from too many mountain lions ODFW is prepared to adjust the population. In other words they want a stable population of mountain lions, not too many or too few.

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In addition to monitoring the population status ODFW sets hunting regulations for the state. Mountain lions are listed as a big game species in Oregon, and are hunted using the same tag system as other big game. Hunters can take both males and females during the mountain lion season, but mothers with cubs are off limits. In the past it was legal to use hunting hounds to tree a lion, or track and corner a mountain lion in a tree. However, using hounds for hunting a mountain lion is illegal for sport hunters, which has lowered the success rates of mountain lion hunting in the state. There is some speculation that this could have caused an increase in the population, but as of now there is no research to support the theory.

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That’s not to say there is a lack of mountain lion research in Oregon, not by a long shot. There have been over a dozen research publications affiliated with ODFW in the last decade alone. They include subjects like establishing more accurate mountain lion densities and population growth rates, effects of lethal control, kill rates and prey selection, and the effects on population dynamics of elk (one of their prey species). In southwestern Oregon there was a long-term study from 1992-2003 that radio collared and captured mountain lions and gathered data on home ranges, prey interactions, reproduction, and dispersal. All of these pieces of research are important to the whole picture of the mountain lion-how it lives, factors that could affect its survival, and how to best live alongside one of our biggest top predators.

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So the next time you pick up your hiking boots, remember and respect the fact that you may not be as alone as you thought out there. Keep an eye out for tracks, because Oregon’s mountain lions can be seen if you know how to look.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Oregon Cougar Management Plan. ODFW.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2015. Summary of Cougar Research in Oregon. ODFW Wildlife Division.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2015. Summary of Cougar Management in Neighboring States. ODFW Wildlife Division.

Mistaken Identity – Turtle or Tortoise?

Creature Feature, Uncategorized

What is the difference between a tortoise and a turtle? All tortoises are in fact turtles—that is, they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia, reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell—but not all turtles are tortoises. The two have habitual and physical differences: that is, they look and act pretty differently.

Cali the tortoise

Tortoises only live on land, whereas turtles live in, or in association with, water. Turtles also have webbed feet and flipper-like forelimbs for easy swimming, while tortoises have stumpy non-webbed feet for walking on land. Their carapace (the bony shell on their back) also differs between species. Turtles have smooth and flatter carapaces to glide effectively in water, while tortoises have bumpier and more rounded carapaces. Another big difference between the two is their diet: tortoises are generally herbivorous, while turtles are omnivorous.

 

Gussie the Great Horned Owl

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Gussie is Wildlife Safari’s resident Great Horned Owl. Her species is common throughout north, central and south America – one of the most widespread species of owl.

These guys get their name from the plumage on their heads that resemble horns, although they are actually just feathers (called plumicorns), not horns at all. These plumicorns are also often mistaken for ears, however, their real ears actually cannot be seen from outside the feathers, and unlike humans, these ears are holes with no outer fleshy part. Unlike most animals, their ears are not symmetrical. Instead, they are slightly off set to create more of a surround sound effect. This allows them to pinpoint where a sound came from – an important skill for a predator that hunts at night from above.

They have an incredibly strong grip, much stronger than a human’s, which makes them extremely effective predators. They catch pretty much everything with their feet and talons, which are razor sharp, and they are so strong they can even catch things that are up to 3 times their size or body weight.

“Gussie likes to act big and bad when shes in her enclosure – but she’s a great training animal,” shares Jennifer Wiles, one of Gussie’s Keepers. She says Gussie is not as tough as she thinks, though. “Once she’s out she can be a little bit of a scardy-owl.”

The reason Gussie is not so tough once outside of her house may be because her eyesight is not the precise, incredible eyesight she once had. Before she came to Wildlife Safari she was in an accident that left her mostly without sight in her left eye. “She can fly but her depth perception is off, so she’ll only fly short distances,” says Jennifer – and that is exactly why Gussie lives at the park. As a predator, she would not be able to hunt and survive in the wild without full vision. “All our birds of prey have been rehabilitated and can’t be released back into the wild because of either eye or wing issues.”

Gussie now has a happy life here at the park with her keepers. Here she acts as an ambassador, helping people learn about owls and their amazing senses.

 

Mistaken Identity: Alligator or crocodile?

Creature Feature, Uncategorized

These ancient reptiles have often been confused with one another because of their similar appearances. Though in the wild, you would rarely naturally see the two species together. The alligator only exists in the United States and China, whereas crocodiles are found across the globe, inhabiting 5 of the 7 continents. They also inhabit two very different niches. Beside location, you can tell the two species apart by the shape of their snout (nose). Alligators have a wider, U shaped snout; while crocodiles have a narrower, V shaped shout. Since crocodiles have that narrow snout, some of their teeth are exposed when their mouth is closed, resulting in a candid croc smile.

American Badger

Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Meet our American Badger, Bandit! When you visit Wildlife Safari you may get a chance to watch this little guy dig in his dig box, or take a morning stroll through the Village. But watch your feet because he is a fast walker! Bandit loves to roam the grounds, listening to the different animals we have at the park.

Bandit the American Badger – Photo courtesy of Jessica Lundquist

Badgers have rounded ears to help them listen for their prey, which are usually hiding underground. They hunt a variety of small mammals, like mice and gophers, along with birds and snakes. They will also eat a few veggies, but most of their diet is made up of meat. They catch their prey by using their long claws to dig into their prey’s burrows. Sometimes, badgers will even work with coyotes! The badger will scare the prey out of the hole, the coyote will catch it, then share the meal together.

Morning stretches – Photo courtesy of Bryanna Bright

American Badgers spend most of their life digging. They love to dig! Their long claws help them to dig out their own burrows or modify an abandoned burrow. These typically only have one entrance and can reach ten meters long and three meters deep. They use their burrows to sleep, eat, and to escape predators. They can dig at amazing speeds by using their front claws to claw into the ground and their back feet work as shovels to scoop and push away the soil. If you want to see this amazing digging power, you can watch Bandit dig in his dig box most mornings at 11:00 am!

Ready for his close up – Photo courtesy of Jessica Lundquist

If you look closely at Bandit, you will notice a white stripe that runs from his nose to the back of his head, like a skunk. The white stripe is a warning to other animals to stay away, because they are dangerous! If a badger is threatened or attacked they become very vocal and will use their sharp teeth and claws to protect themselves. They also have thick, loose skin that makes it hard for a predator to hang onto them and makes it difficult to actually hurt the badger.

You can find American Badgers in the wild from Canada to Mexico. If you ever come across one outside of Wildlife Safari, always make sure to give them lots of space and let them continue on their way!

Violet, the Virginia Opossum

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

You may have encountered a face like this in your backyard at night, but Violet here has a special job here at Wildlife Safari. Violet, a Virginia Opossum, is one of the park’s ambassador animals. She visits schools and community events with her keepers to help teach people about wildlife. She also helps tell people about her species; that they are more than just creatures that steal from your trash cans!

Violets curious little face

Virginia opossums are the only marsupial in North America. Their gestation period is only 13 days because their young spend the first 3 months of their life in their mother’s pouch, and the next few months clinging to her back wherever she goes!

Despite popular belief, opossums are incapable of carrying the rabies virus because their body temperature drops too low when they play dead to sustain the virus. They also help reduce the occurrence of Lyme disease – since ticks are a favorite food of theirs.  These little guys will eat about 5,000 ticks in a season, which cuts down your chance of getting one along with any disease they carry!

Nap time for a tired Opossum

Violet was found an orphan at Wildlife Safari and hand-raised by keepers. When she was found she could fit easily in the palm of your hand, but she soon grew up into an active and very agile little girl! “She’s very comfortable around humans and loves to use them as her own personal jungle gym,” says Education Intern Sarah Cutting, who works with Violet everyday.

Violet at only a few weeks old

Because her daytime eyesight is fairly poor, violet mostly explores her environment with her nose, and her mouth!

“Violet enjoys any kind of taste enrichment, from new sorts of bugs to munch on to the occasional tropical fruit, as well as rubber kongs” says Sarah.

Swinging from her house

“Unfortunately, opossums get a bad rap in the public eye,” Sarah tells us.”One of my favorite things about taking Violet on outreaches is how surprised people are by how cute, soft, and clean she is. Violet is a great animal ambassador because she fights opossum stereotypes wherever she goes!”