A Walk on the Wild Side…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had the privilege of visiting the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke so that I could photograph their ambassador animals. The Center describes itself as “a state and federally licensed rehabilitation facility that offers quality care and veterinary treatment to the animals of the greater Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas. Operating since 2000, directors Sabrina and Lucky Garvin, members of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, have over 19 years experience. As such, they are well qualified to provide care tailored to the needs of a variety of species.”

Some of the animals in their care are not fit for release back into the wild for one reason or another. Some of these ambassador animals have been injured previously and wouldn’t survive in the wild now, while others imprinted on humans at a young age and can’t be released for fear they would approach humans in the wild and possibly become nuisance animals.

From the moment we arrived, the Wildlife Center was bustling with activity. Volunteers were busy preparing diets, cleaning up, and taking calls about injured wildlife. The Center will only become busier as the wildlife baby season arrives with the Spring. In fact, while we were there, a Good Samaritan brought in several opossum babies who were abandoned when the woman’s dog killed the mother opossum. Because the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke sees over 1,000 patients yearly, they depend greatly on volunteers and donations. This Friday, April 13, The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke will host its first fundraiser event “A Night Owl on the Town.” This promises to be a wonderful evening of animals and entertainment. I’ve donated a few photo canvases from my session with the ambassador animals for the silent auction. I think it’s so important to spread the stories of these amazing animals. So without further ado, I present the ambassador animals of the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke!

This is Tuskegee:

He’s an adult red-tailed hawk, and he’s stunningly handsome.

He imprinted on humans at a young age and couldn’t be released back into the wild. Sometimes well meaning humans find baby animals they think are orphaned and take them in to try to care for them. Sadly, many baby animals aren’t orphaned at all. Just because a human doesn’t see a mother around, doesn’t mean she isn’t there, or that she’s not caring for her young. In addition, if an animal is truly orphaned, it should only be cared for by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. It’s a good thing the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke is around to help care for wildlife in need! If you ever come upon a wild animal and you’re not sure if they need help, be sure to look up licensed wildlife rehabbers in your area and give them a call.

This is Hook, a broad-winged hawk.

I love to watch these hawks in Autumn during migration. They ride the thermals in huge groups called kettles and fly south for the winter. It’s a huge migration of thousands and thousands of birds, and it’s always a magnificent sight to see these birds soaring high in the sky.

I believe he also imprinted on humans and cannot be released into the wild.

This cutie is Wally. He’s a squirrel with dwarfism. You read that correctly. Animals can suffer from genetic, hormonal, and metabolic issues just as humans can. In addition to other things, he has a very short tail and squirrels use their tails for balance and for warmth. Because of his physical abnormalities, he wouldn’t survive well in the wild.

Miss Rosie and Miss Rio are both female Eastern Box Turtles. You can tell they are females because of the color of their iris. It’s brown. Females of this species of turtle have brown or brownish yellow irises. Males have red irises.

Rosie’s shell was painted by someone, and not someone at the Center. I’ve seen this before. Parents let their kids bring home box turtles and paint their shells. This is a horrible practice. Box turtles should never be moved from the spot where you find them unless they are in harm’s way (for instance if they are in the middle of the road.) They have a defined home range and they need to stay in that home range. If they are moved to another location, they will spend their lives trying to find their home. Paint is also very unhealthy for these animals!

Rio lost one of her back legs, so she calls the Center home now.

This is Sable, the black vulture. I fell in love with Sable immediately. She was very habituated to humans and had no problem coming right up to us. Many people seem to dislike vultures, but they are nature’s clean up crew. By eating carrion, they actually help keep diseases from spreading. They are great to have around!

Clapper, the Great Horned Owl, was an older owl, but he was stunning none-the-less!

Last, but certainly not least, this little guy is Zombie. He’s a gorgeous red phase Eastern Screech Owl, and this guy doesn’t take a bad photo. He is an adult, but they are very small owls. Sometimes measuring only six inches tall, their small size allows them to find homes in both rural and urban environments as long as their are trees around.

Zombie received his name because of his incredible story, which can be found here: Modern Day Lazarus

I hope that you’ve enjoyed getting to see and learn a little bit about these amazing animals! I also hope that you will consider donating to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you so that they can continue their life saving mission!

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