wild teachers

Along with the already-fascinating facts and unique aspects of each species, each of the sanctuary animals has an individual story of hardship and recovery. Is there something you would like to know about one of our wild teachers? Contact us today!


canada lynx

Lynx canadensis

Owls will sometimes follow a hunting pair of lynx. When one lynx flushes the prey, the owl will swoop in before the other lynx can react.

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Lynx are shy, primarily nocturnal creatures. They live mostly in Alaska and Canada, having been largely eliminated in the lower 48 states by loss of habitat and possibly by losing the fight for resources to their more-aggressive cousin, the bobcat.

Durango, one of the stars of our “Living Earth” program, is very territorial—he marks his enclosure with urine whenever he sees an unfamiliar face. He was born in a zoo in Southern California. Baby animals generate a lot of money for zoos, which then have to find homes for the animals after they outgrow their appeal.




Pearl loves snuggling with stuffed animals, and is often spotted curled up in her den box with a large stuffed monkey.

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Opossums are North America's only marsupial. They have 50 teeth, which is more than any other mammal in North America. Female opossums can have thirteen babies up to three times a year. Each baby is the size of a grain of rice and all thirteen can fit inside a spoon. The act of “playing possum” as a defense is actually an involuntary reaction, much like fainting. Anywhere from 40 minutes to 4 hours later, they emerge from their unconscious state ready to resume the important job of keeping nature clean by scavenging on dead plant and meat sources, often found in our own garbage cans.

A tiny and weak Pearl was discovered after a cold, rainy night on Pearl St. in San Jose. Veterinarians discovered she had damaged her hard palate, which in turn affected her sense of smell. Because opossums are scavengers and rely heavily on their sense of smell, she was deemed non-releasable.


african serval

Leptailurus serval

Savannah loves to hunt, and her enclosure gives her many opportunities to chase birds, mice and gophers.

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Her predatory focus keeps her moving around as she watches for anything that moves. She does catch things, but never eats her prey. She will become very vocal when she is seeking scratches and head butts with her trainers, and she knows she can get away with mischief with new staff members. She likes to bat at paper streamers in her enclosure, and to go on long walks.



Procyon lotor

Blind since birth, Loki—named after the trickster God of Norse mythology—has won over the hearts of everyone who meets him.

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Because of his blindness, Loki could not be released into the wild after he and his littermates were found in a garage. He adapts quickly and is always ready to explore a new space or toy with his amazing sense of touch. Loki seems happiest when he is in the lap of one of his handlers. We always have to be sure to emphasize that his behavior is not how racoons in the wild react to people or other animals.

Raccoons are highly adaptable animals and a common example of urban wildlife. As opportunistic omnivores, their diet is variable and may include items such as fish, snails, insects and crustaceans, berries, nuts, fruit and carrion. With their dexterous paws and powerful jaws, they are capable of opening cans and jars. Due to a somewhat dangerous life around humans, their lifespan is about 2–3 years in the wild. In captivity, raccoons can live up to 20 years.



Potos flavus

A kinkajou looks a little like a monkey, but is really related to the raccoon.

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Yoda’s pregnant mother was stolen from the wild. He was bottle-fed as a baby, but, in the hopes he could be returned to the wild, never held. Because of this, Yoda was difficult to handle and required a great deal of TLC and patience to become the great wild teacher he is today.

Kinkajous are rainforest dwellers who eat mostly fruit. They are one of the only mammals to serve as pollinators—sticky pollen clings to their faces and gets passed around as they use their 6" tongues to go after the nectar in flowers.


snowy owl

Bubo scandiacus

Snowl Owls are diurnal—rare among owls.

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Observant and aware are perfect words to describe this beautiful white bird. In fact, this acute alertness makes the Snowy Owl very high stress, and Tundra is one of only about a half-dozen in the US used in educational programs. It took a tremendous amount of insight to make her a great wild teacher. The key? Understanding that she takes her cues from her handler. As long as her handler remains calm, loud noises and unexpected movements won’t upset her. Unlike most of the birds at Wildlife Associates, Tundra has a strong preference for one trainer over all others.

She was born in Quebec. Snowy Owls nest on the ground, and a well-meaning person took the owlet from her home believing it had fallen from a tree.


prehensile-tailed porcupine

Coendou prehensilis

Pig is a slow-moving animal that makes unique baby-like noises to communicate.

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Born in captivity, Pig would normally live in the rainforests of South America. He has a prehensile tail, which he would use as a kind of safety rope as he foraged for the fruits, leaves, shoots and bark that make up most of his herbivorous diet.



Tamandua tetradactyla

George is an acrobat that likes to climb anything and everything.

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Another one of our rainforest dwellers, George is a nocturnal creature who spends his days sleeping on his cat tree and his nights ripping apart logs looking for ants and bugs.

George is a Lesser Tamandua, the smallest of the anteaters. Intead of teeth, he has a slender, 17" tongue he would use to forage in anthills and termite mounds. In the sanctuary, other than the treats he pulls from the logs, his diet consists of freeze-dried insects and special pellets made for insectivores. When he is upset he stands on his hind legs and stomps like a sumo wrestler.