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.
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!