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!

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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!”

Huckleberry 

Ambassador Days, Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized

Meet Huckleberry, Wildlife Safari’s ambassador chicken. Although chickens are far from endangered, they are a common farm or even household pet and Huckleberry helps teach people about their behavior, care, and their place in ecological systems.

Huckleberry the chicken getting some snuggle time with a keeper

Chickens eat fruits, vegetables and a variety of insects that they find in the soil using their typical behavior of “scratching” where they dig up the ground with their feet.

Most people think birds are pretty silly, but many species are actually quite intelligent, and can be trained very effectively. Huckleberry can understand and react to several commands, including target (she pecks the end of her target stick) and station (she goes to stand on her little platform).

Interrupting a conference between Huckleberry and Bell, the Blue and Gold Macaw.

Since she is so well behaved and can be easily recalled, Huckleberry gets to wander around outside or inside for most of the day. When she needs to be brought in, her keepers simply call her name (which she will come to) and ask her to go inside (she runs along into the Education building), or even ask her to go home – with that command she will run all the way inside and into her house awaiting her treat and for her keepers to shut her door.

When inside she likes to nap near her keepers while they do office work, or undertake the never-ending job of preening her feathers to ensure she stays clean and beautiful!

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!

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!

Adventures of an Opossum

Behind the Scenes, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Tucked under blankets, all snuggled up in her house in the education building, lives Wildlife Safari’s ambassador Opossum, Violet. Violet was orphaned at 4 weeks old and would not have survived without her keepers hand raising her. Since then she has grown from a little one that could fit in the palm of your hand into a full grown adventurer. She loves meeting people and teaching them about her species, the only marsupial not native to Australia. She loves walking with her keepers (she is harness trained), and napping in her nest box (which she fills full of blankets so its just right).

Violet snuggled up in a pouch

Violet snuggled up in a pouch – photo courtesy of Julianne Rose

A very curious little one, Violet has to investigate any cameras around – photo courtesy of Julianne Rose

The Virginia Opossum is native to North America and is the Northern hemisphere’s only marsupial (a mammal with a pouch to carry their young). Although they are commonly called ‘possums’ in the US, they are a different species entirely from true possums – species native to Australia.

Violet the Opossum considers grass for the first time

Violet the Opossum considers grass for the first time

Violet explores

Opossums are omnivores, eating fruits and vegetables, meat and insects. Violet particularly loves meal worms and cockroaches! They are nocturnal, foraging and hunting for food at night, and sleeping through the day. They have a prehensile tail which they use for stability amongst tree branches, although they can’t hang from them. Since they move around in the dark of night, they rely a lot on their sense of smell. “Violet primarily explores her world through smell and taste, so we get licked quite a lot,” says Julianne Rose, Lead Educator and one of those involved with raising Violet. Rose says the hand raising process is “exhausting but extremely rewarding” with regularly feedings throughout the night when she was small. Violet is now 8 months old and has her keepers charmed. “The education department wouldn’t be complete without her!” says Rose.

Violet

Violet settles in for a nap – being nocturnal, she sleeps for most of the day

Paddy the Patagonian Cavy

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

It looks like a kangaroo and sounds like a guinea pig, but this little girl is a species all her own! Meet Paddy, one of Wildlife Safari’s resident Patagonian Cavies. One of the largest species of rodent in the world, Patagonian Cavies are native to South America, specifically Argentina. They are herbivores, enjoying a diet full of fruit, vegetables and foliage. They have the constantly growing teeth characteristic to rodents, which means they are almost always chewing and wearing those teeth down as they grow.

They typically live in areas with lots of shrub cover – helpful as both protection from predators and as a source of food.

Cavy enclosure

Cavies make grunting and squeaking sounds to communicate, similar to guinea pigs. They mostly walk or run, but are fast and agile – they can jump very high to be able to escape scrapes with predators.

Paddy the Patagonian Cavy

Paddy the Patagonian Cavy

They are monogamous animals, mating for life. Pairs can live life alone together or with other pairs in warrens, with up to 29 pairs sharing this space (that’s a lot of room mates!). Females will usually have just one litter a year, with a gestation of a little over 3 months.

Paddy being her curious, social self - photo courtesy of Leila Goulet

Paddy being her curious, social self – photo courtesy of Leila Goulet

Paddy is one of the education animals that acts as an ambassador, going to schools and community events to teach people about animals and conservation. Up until recently, Paddy lived off display in our education department, but she now has a new home in Safari Village! She alternates in this enclosure with Safari’s male Cavy, Lucas. Nestled between the Tamarin enclosure and the petting zoo, Paddy and Lucas have been investigating theie

new house in prime position to meet new people!

Patagonian Cavy Enclosure in Safari Village

Patagonian Cavy Enclosure in Safari Village

Coco and Swiper

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature

Coco and Swiper are domestic ferrets that live in the Education Department of Wildlife Safari. They spend their days meeting people of all ages as our animal ambassadors!

Many people are familiar with ferrets as pets, but not many know that here is the US we have a native ferret species: the black-footed ferret. Once common across most of the United States, black-footed ferrets are now endangered, mostly due to loss of prey (and predation) from feral cats. Cats will hunt the same foods that ferrets are hoping to catch, and will also actually catch a ferret if they can.

While they are not black-footed ferrets, Coco and Swiper still do a pretty good job of teaching people about what ferrets are like; what they eat, when they sleep, and the things they do all day (hint: mostly sleep).

Swiper loves to find new snuggle spots, here he has found some toilet paper for craft.

Swiper loves to find new snuggle spots, here he has found some toilet paper for craft.

Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means they ONLY eat meat. They are extremely flexible, which allows them to move through holes and burrows in search for mice or other small animals.

They are crepuscular, a kind of nocturnal, which means they hunt in the early morning and evening.

The rest of the time they sleep. For ferrets, nap time takes up around 19 hours of the day.

Coco getting her sleep

Coco getting her sleep

The reputation they have for their characteristic smell comes from their musk gland, which they use both for marking territories and to tell each other apart. Their smell acts sort of like a name tag, and through this they can tell who is who, and even who is family. That’s a lot to tell from just a smell!

 

Meet Madrone

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature

At 7.5 ft long, 21 lbs and 20 years old, Madrone, the mild mannered red-tail boa, is a majestic figure. As one of Wildlife Safari’s ambassador animals, Madrone goes out with his keepers into the community to teach people of all ages about the importance of conservation.

Red-tail boas are native to South America, and get their name from the red pigment on their underbelly. They are constrictors; which means they are non-venomous, relying instead on their strength to slowly squeeze their prey until they go into circulatory arrest.

As they are non-venomous they have no need for the long fangs that would inject venom into prey. Instead, they have small, rear facing teeth to grab and hold their prey while they constrict.

Red tails are tree dwellers, using their patterns to camouflage against bark and leaves.

Their diet includes small mammals, birds and amphibians that cross their paths. As nocturnal sit and wait predators, red tail boas wait in the shadows for their prey to approach before they strike.

Capable of growing up to 12 ft long, there are not many predators willing to take on an adult Red-tail boa. Their main threat comes from people. The exotic pet trade removes these beautiful snakes from their natural habitat and places them in homes that may not be prepared to care for them adequately. With a lifespan of up to 35 years, they are not a small commitment.

Madrone, like all our ambassador animals, is used to being around people and is comfortable with meeting groups of all ages. He shows young and old what it is that conservation efforts are trying to protect. Seeing him takes these animals from abstract to very real. His charms have also changed many minds when it comes to preconceived notions regarding snakes.

Our hope is that when people meet Madrone, they will see him as we do; a life worth protecting and a species worth conserving.