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.

 

A Very Busy Birthday Month

Ambassador Days, Behind the Scenes, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

February was a very busy month at  Wildlife Safari with four birthdays! Khayam and Mchumba, our brother and sister ambassador pair, and Pancake and Dayo, our youngest ambassadors!

Khayam and Mchumba, Wildlife Safari's four-year-old cheetah ambassadors

Khayam and Mchumba, Wildlife Safari’s four-year-old cheetah ambassadors – Photo courtesy of Danielle Berthold

Pancake and Dayo had birthday celebrations on the 28th. Although they had different parents, they actually share a birthday! As its their first birthday, the entire park was super excited for the event, and guests came from all over to see them.

“They’ve grown so much!” says Mikaely Riley, one of the Cheetah Keepers involved with raising the pair. “They really do behave just like siblings. Dayo loves to try and play when Pancake is napping – much to her frustration, but they are very affectionate to each other.”

Although they get along very well, they both have their unique personalities. Pancake is a fast learner with her training, and has a characteristic squeaky purr that has her keepers charmed. Dayo is a bundle of joy, always happy to see you and ready to play – especially if there are snacks!

Pancake and Dayo, our cheetah-puppy ambassador pair when they were much smaller

Pancake and Dayo, our cheetah-puppy ambassador pair when they were much smaller

Friends right from the start, this is small Pancake and Dayo sharing a toy

Friends right from the start, this is small Pancake and Dayo sharing a toy

Carnivore Lead, Jordan Bednarz has enjoyed watching them grow together. “While Dayo and Pancake had a period of adjusting to each others ways it’s amazing to see that they really have become the best of friends,” he says. “I’m very much looking forward to working with them until their next birthdays and beyond.”

A typical cat, Pancake has always loved nap time

A typical cat, Pancake has always loved nap time

Khayam and Mchumba turned 4 years old on the 29th. As leap year cubs this year is actually their first real birthday! Getting lots of love, attention and snacks from their keepers is part of their everyday life, but keepers made sure to make the day special for them.

Khayam and Mchumba relaxing together - a sibling already there never stops them from laying in their favorite spot...

Khayam and Mchumba relaxing together – a sibling already there never stops them from laying in their favorite spot…

“It has been such an experience to work with these two very different ambassador groups and watch them grow,” says Bednarz. “Despite Khayam and Mchumba being siblings they each have quite different personalities.”

A much younger Khayam and Mchumba chasing after a ball

A much younger Khayam and Mchumba chasing after a ball