Education Animals

Buddy
Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus

This eagle hatched on April 27, 2008 at a nest at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Thousands of individuals around the world followed his life through “EagleCam” — a web-based camera — and soon noticed a lump developing on the side of the bird’s beak. In May 2008, the eagle was taken from his nest and admitted as a patient at the Wildlife Center. Lab tests revealed that the lesion on his beak was Avian Pox. Despite an all-out effort by Center veterinarians, the pox lesion caused a permanent misalignment in the bird’s beak, which will need to be trimmed periodically for the rest of the eagle’s life. In August 2009, the Norfolk Bald Eagle was declared non-releasable; in April 2010 he was officially named “Buddy”. Buddy is being trained for his new “career” as a Wildlife Center education animal and wildlife ambassador.

Read More about Buddy »

Edie
American Kestrel
Falco sparverius

Edie came to the Wildlife Center in May 2005. She was found as an orphan in Roanoke, Virginia after her nest tree was damaged in a storm. She was kept by her rescuers for several days before being taken to a local wildlife rehabilitator. After several weeks of observation at the Wildlife Center, our veterinary staff determined that she was imprinted on humans. Young birds visually imprint on their caregiver and thereafter identify with that species for life; Edie was with her rescuers during this critical imprinting stage of her life. Due to the behavioral changes brought on by her imprinting, Edie cannot be released back into the wild.

Verlon
American Kestrel
Falco sparverius

This kestrel hatched in the spring of 2016 and was admitted to the Center with his two siblings after their nesting tree was cut down. The birds were not able to be reunited with their parents and were transferred to a permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility. Despite being raised with other kestrels, the young bird imprinted on humans, which means he cannot be released back to the wild. The kestrel joined the education ambassador team in the fall of 2016.

The naming rights for this new kestrel were auctioned off at the 2016 gala & benefit auction. The winner chose to name the kestrel in honor of her mother.

Maggie
Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus

Maggie hatched in the spring of 2014 – atop a building in downtown Richmond that was on the Richmond Falcon Cam. Two days after fledging from her nest, the young falcon crashed into a building, severely damaging her left eye and fracturing the tip of her beak. Wildlife Center veterinarians treated Maggie’s eye with medication for several weeks, but about a month after admission, the veterinary team had to surgically remove the damaged eye. With only one eye, Maggie cannot see well enough to be released back into the wild.

Maggie’s naming rights were auctioned off at the Center’s annual gala in November 2014. A group of secret schemers pooled their funds and won – and promptly gifted the naming rights to director of outreach Amanda Nicholson, one of Maggie’s trainers. Amanda chose to honor the falcon’s Richmond roots – after all, Peregrine Falcons are not all that common in Virginia, and the nesting Richmond falcons have contributed significantly to the Virginia population. Maggie is named in honor of Richmonder Maggie Walker [1867 – 1934], who was a well-known teacher, the first woman president of a bank, and advocate for people with disabilities.

Maggie has her very own children's book -- check it out in our online shop!
 

Grayson
Broad-winged Hawk
Buteo platypterus

Grayson was found as a young bird in June of 2010 in Grayson County, Virginia. She had fallen out of the nest and suffered a fractured right humerus, as well as injury to her patagium – the skin covering the leading edge of the wing. Grayson was initially taken to a local permitted wildlife rehabilitator, who stabilized the injury and then brought her to the Wildlife Center. WCV veterinarians sutured the hole in the patagium and bandaged the wing; however, the fracture did not heal completely straight, and scarring on the patagium left Grayson unable to fully extend her wing.

Keeya
Red-shouldered Hawk
Buteo lineatus

Keeya was found by a road in Hanover County in September 2013. When she was first admitted, Keeya was extremely thin and dehydrated -- she had been unable to hunt and care for herself for several days. Radiographs revealed two fractures in her right wing – both the radius and ulna were fractured. Both fractures were close to the hawk’s joints, and WCV vets could not pin the broken bones in surgery. Keeya also had an injury to her left eye, leaving her with a significant blind spot.

Keeya became an education bird in 2014, though never really settled into her job; despite continued training, Keeya remained fairly nervous in front of people. In the summer of 2016, Keeya took on new responsibilities -- she served as a surrogate to several young Red-shouldered Hawks. In this role, Keeya helps keep young hawks wild as they develop natural hawk behaviors.

Ruby
Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis

Ruby was hit by a car in Dayton, Virginia in February 2010. When she arrived at the Center, the veterinary team found a fracture in her left wing as well as severe trauma to her right eye.  After weeks of cage rest and bandaging, her wing healed – but her right eye had to be surgically removed. Unfortunately, with limited vision, Ruby cannot see well enough to be released back into the wild.

In January 2011, the Wildlife Center asked for the help of elementary school children in suggesting names for this hawk. More than 170 names were submitted. The “final five” were put to an online public vote.  The winning name was Ruby.

That name was suggested by Ms. Phelps’ first-grade class at South River Elementary in Grottoes. In submitting the nomination, Ms. Phelps wrote, “We are currently studying Ruby Bridges. The kids thought since Ruby was a brave girl who fought to have a better life and since rubies are red, this would be a good name for a female red-tailed-hawk who also fought for her life.”

As a six-year old girl, Ruby Bridges integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Her experience inspired the iconic painting by Norman Rockwell, The Problem We All Live With.

Rosalie
Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis

Rosalie was transferred to the Wildlife Center in July 2016 from another wildlife rehabilitator. Though Rosalie's full history is unknown, her records indicated that she was previously deemed non-releasable because of arthritis in her left hip. The veterinarians at the Wildlife Center also discovered a "false joint" in her right hip; her hip had luxated at some point and healed improperly, creating scar tissue around the joint and limiting movement of her right leg. Rosalie cannot be released into the wild and became an ambassador at the Wildlife Center in December 2016.

Rosalie was named after Rosalie Barrow Edge -- a suffragist and advocate for wildlife conservation. In 1934, Rosalie Edge founded the first preserve for birds of prey -- Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. She was known for her strong personality and fierce activism for birds of prey and other wildlife.

Athena
Barred Owl
Strix varia

Athena was found on the ground in Richmond in September 2012. An animal control officer picked up the owl and took her to a local permitted rehabilitator.  Athena was weak, uncoordinated, and also had significant retinal degeneration in both eyes. Based on these symptoms, the Center’s veterinarians believe that the owl may have been affected by West Nile Virus. Due to the partial blindness, Athena is non-releasable.

In January 2013, the Center kicked off a naming contest for this new education Barred Owl and solicited suggests from K-12 classrooms from around the world. In total, 86 suggestions were submitted from schools in 13 different states and Canada.  Five names were put to a public vote – the winner was Athena, submitted by Mrs. Hill's 6th-8th grade Wildlife Club at Fort Bragg, NC. "I sent the students to research owls and come back with a suggested name for a girl owl. The key was researching owls and what other cultures believed about them. Three brought the ancient Greek history to me with Athena as a possible name. 'From ancient Athens, the silver four-drachma coin bore the image of the owl on the obverse side as a symbol of the city's patron, Athene Pronoia, the Greek goddess of wisdom who, in an earlier incarnation, was goddess of darkness' [The Owl Pages (Owls in Lore and Culture)]. We know it is a female and are suggesting Athena based on the Greek goddess of wisdom who was also the goddess of darkness!"
 

Gus
Barred Owl
Strix varia

Gus came to the Wildlife Center in April 1994 as a very young owlet. Shortly after hatching, she was found alone and on the ground near Mechanicsville, Virginia, presumably after falling from her nest tree. Her rescuers brought her to their home, intending to keep the young owl as a pet; like many people, they were unaware that it is illegal to keep wild animals in captivity. After several weeks, Gus was discovered by neighbors and removed from the household by the local police, who arranged for transport to the Wildlife Center. Our veterinary staff determined that the constant attention Gus had received from her initial rescuers had left her imprinted on humans. Caretakers must go to great lengths to avoid imprinting young birds, and Gus’s initial rescuers were unaware of this fact. Her imprinted status leaves her unsuitable for release back into the wild.

Previously thought to be a male, Gus’s original full name was “Gustavo”. In early 2013, the Wildlife Center had the opportunity to test Gus’s DNA; results confirmed that Gustavo is actually a female!  After 18 years, the staff couldn’t possibly change the owl’s name, so it’s simply been shortened to “Gus”.
 

Papa G’Ho
Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus

Papa G’Ho came to the Wildlife Center from Henrico County, Virginia, in December 2001.  He had sustained injuries to his feet and wings, likely after he was struck by a vehicle. Despite rehabilitation, Papa G’Ho never regained his ability to fly silently, which is critical to the hunting success of owls in the wild. Because noisy flight would inhibit his ability to survive independently, he cannot be released back into the wild. Though he is unable to return to the wild himself, Papa G’Ho plays a very important role at the Wildlife Center as a surrogate parent for any young, orphaned Great Horned Owls that we admit. After their initial examination and treatment, young owlets are moved into Papa G’Ho’s enclosure, where he helps them hone their hunting abilities and develop natural owl behaviors. Our staff takes great care to keep Papa G’Ho from becoming comfortable around humans – by keeping him “wild,” we can ensure that the owlets he raises will survive, and thrive, on their own.

"Papa Bird Nurtures Dozens of Injured Owlets", WAMU 88.5 Radio

Quinn
Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus

Quinn came to the Center in May 2008 from the Roanoke area. He was found stuck in a fence and was admitted with injuries to both wings and his right eye. Center veterinarians determined that his eye would need to be removed, and Quinn’s flight feathers never grew in properly.

Alex
Eastern Screech Owl
Megascops asio

Alex was brought to The Wildlife Center in November 2007. She had been found by a road in Wythe County. Alex had a left wing fracture and damage to both eyes. While the wing fracture healed, Alex cannot be released back to the wild because of her limited vision.

Buttercup
Black Vulture
Coragyps atratus

Buttercup was hatched in captivity in 2004. His parents would not care for him, so he was transferred to a permitted rehabilitator. Unfortunately, while he was under the rehabilitator’s care, Buttercup became imprinted on humans. Birds do not automatically know what they are when they’re born — they visually imprint on their caregivers and identify with that species for life. Buttercup no longer fears people and therefore cannot be released into the wild. Prior to his arrival at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Buttercup was an educational animal at another facility in Virginia.  He came to the Wildlife Center in September 2011.

In February 2013, the Wildlife Center tested Buttercup's DNA to determine the bird's gender; it was never before been confirmed and had been assumed that Buttercup was a female. The results:  Buttercup is a male!

Read All About Buttercup here.

Jaz
American Crow
Corvus brachyrhynchos

Jaz was hatched in the wild in Warren County, Virginia in May 1992. She was found as a pre-fledging, alone under a tree and apparently abandoned by her parents. Her rescuers transported her to the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center [CRC] in Front Royal, VA. While the CRC works to breed rare and endangered animals, some common “surrogate species” with behavioral and physiological characteristics similar to their endangered relatives are housed there. During most of her time at the CRC, Jaz was paired with a male crow. In fall 2007, the CRC determined that Jaz’s enclosure would need to be torn down to make room for new caging, and Jaz was relocated to the Wildlife Center.

Bo
Virginia Opossum
Didelphis virginiana

Bo and his siblings were found as very young orphaned opossums in the summer of 2016. They were cared for by a permitted wildlife rehabilitator; even though Bo was fed a proper diet, he developed metabolic bone disease, which caused his front legs to bow. His siblings grew up normally and were able to be released. Bo's diet was modified and his legs did not worsen, but the permanent bowing caused him to be non-releasable. Bo joined the team in December 2016.

Check out Bo's debut via our Facebook live video!

Delphine
Virginia Opossum
Didelphis virginiana

Delphine came to the Wildlife Center in March 2016 when she was found injured on the side of South Delphine, the road where the Wildlife Center is located! An outreach staff member rescued Delphine and brought her into the hospital, where the veterinary team discovered that Delphine had severe head injuries -- and a pouch full of babies. The veterinarians stabilized Delphine, and because her injuries were not life-threatening, she was given time to raise her nine babies. The young opossums were released in June, and Delphine was deemed non-releasable due to permanent head trauma and vision loss. She joined the outreach team in July 2016.

Phebe
Virginia Opossum
Didelphis virginiana

On July 26, 2013, the Wildlife Center admitted Virginia Opossum #13-2013 along with her three siblings. The young opossums were found on their dead mother [who had likely been hit by a car] in Staunton, Virginia. While her three siblings were healthy, Phebe had an injury to her right eye. The eye injury did not respond to treatment, and on September 1, the veterinary staff determined that the eye would need to be surgically removed, making Phebe non-releasable. Naming rights were auctioned off at the 2013 annual gala and benefit fundraiser.

Clifford
Cornsnake
Pantherophis guttatus

Clifford arrived at the Wildlife Center in December 2016. He was discovered in a Bedford home several months after his former owner died. At first, Clifford exhibited neurologic symptoms, but with several months of care and proper nutrition, as well as a series of diagnostic tests, Clifford began acting normally and was declared healthy. In June 2017, Clifford officially joined the Wildlife Center ambassador team. He is named after noted American herpetologist Clifford Hillhouse Pope, who is known for saying, "snakes are first cowards, then bluffers, and last of all warriors."

Max
Cornsnake
Elaphe guttata guttata

Max was purchased at a pet store in North Carolina and lived as a family pet for several years before he was given to the Wildlife Center in January 2014. Reptile pets lack the necessary skills to survive in the wild and can never be released. Max has lived his whole life in captivity and can't protect himself, find food, or locate shelter in the wild. Because he is non-releasable, Max is a permanent education animal at the Center.

Malcolm
Cornsnake
Elaphe guttata guttata

Malcolm came to the Center in February 2010 as an unwanted pet and was most likely hatched in captivity. Malcolm’s life-experience as a pet means that he likely lacks the ability to survive in the wild, find his own food, and locate shelter. As a result, Malcolm has landed a permanent home at the Wildlife Center.

Albus
Eastern Ratsnake
Pantherophis alleghaniensis

Albus was admitted to the Wildlife Center in December 2012. He was rescued by animal control and was taken to a humane society when his former owner moved to an assisted living facility. Because it is unknown how long Albus was in captivity, or where he was originally found, he is unable to be released into the wild.

Severus
Eastern Ratsnake
Pantherophis alleghaniensis

Severus was brought to the Wildlife Center in December 2007. He was originally captured in 2004 in the basement of a home, and subsequently passed between several different owners over a period of two and a half years. He was eventually confiscated by the police in Staunton, Virginia and brought to the Wildlife Center. When Severus first arrived at the Wildlife Center he was malnourished and very aggressive, both likely products of his poor living conditions in captivity. Our staff began a rehabilitation regimen to nurse him back to health, but because he had been kept in captivity for such a long time, Severus cannot be released. He is now a healthy and permanent member of the Wildlife Center’s education team.

Oscar
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Heterodon platirhinos

This Eastern Hog-nosed Snake was kept as a pet in Richmond, Virginia. In September 2015, when Oscar was approximately one year old, he was given to the Wildlife Center because his caretaker could no longer care for him. Because we don’t know when or where Oscar was taken from the wild, he can never be released. Reptile pets also often lack the necessary skills to survive in the wild, and introducing them to a new area can introduce disease to the local, native population. In December 2015, the Wildlife Center held a naming contest with K-12 students from throughout the U.S. Oscar was named for the impressive acting abilities of the species and the dramatic “death scenes” that they often employ to evade predators -- truly Oscar-worthy!

Greenbean
Northern Rough Greensnake
Opheodrys aestivus

Greenbean was an education snake at a nature center in Virginia for nine years; her origins are unknown. When the nature center closed down in the spring of 2017, her keeper contacted the Wildlife Center to see if Greenbean could continue her role as an ambassador. Greenbean officially joined the team in June 2017.

Emma
Russian Tortoise
Testudo horsfieldii

Emma came to the Wildlife Center in October 2000. She was found wandering the grounds of the University of Virginia, far from her native desert territory. Most likely an escaped or abandoned pet, Emma could not survive on her own in this climate. Emma now lives at the Wildlife Center and teaches children the importance of leaving native animals in their natural environment.

Wilson
Eastern Box Turtle
Terrapene carolina

Wilson was found at Maymont Park in Richmond in October 2009. He was likely an unwanted or escaped pet.  When he was found, his entire upper shell had been painted purple. Center veterinary staff painstakingly removed this paint.  However, because Wilson had been kidnapped from an unknown location and had lived for some time as a pet, he cannot be returned to the wild.