Educational Animals

Give us a call at 489-0900 if you would like to have any of our animals visit your group or school.

OtusEastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) – a small owl, ranging from 6.3 to 9.8 inches as adults, with either rusty or dark gray intricately patterned plumage and streaking on the underparts. Did You Know? The 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny featured a scene where the owl’s screech kept the movie characters awake – however, the movie audio didn’t accurately portray the owl’s screech.

Otus was found in May 2009 as a juvenile in Wilkes County and unable to fly.  Upon examination at the Carolina Raptor Center, he was found to have a fractured left humerus that did not heal properly.  Because of his injury, he cannot fly to catch his prey or escape from a predator.  The CRC staff selected Otus to be placed with Piedmont Wildlife Center because they felt his temperament would make him a good education bird. He has proven to be just that!  Otus is attending events and education programs and is available for booking at your next event, school or group program.


IvanRed-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)one of the largest members of the genus Buteo in North America, typically weighing from 1.5 to 3.5 pounds and measuring 18 to 26 inches in length, with a wingspan from 43 to 57 inches.  Did You Know? In Native Americanculture its feathers are considered sacred by some tribes and used in religious ceremonies.

Ivan was found in July 2009 in Gaston County with numerous injuries after he was transferred from an emergency vet clinic.  He had a chip out of its upper beak, he had major feather damage to his right wing and tail and will not fly. He has no chance of survival in the wild if he cannot fly to catch prey or to escape from predators.  He has made wonderful progress over the last 6 months and has molted in new wing feathers and tail feathers!  He is still unable to fly but is much more mobile in his habitat and has been working very well on the glove with our volunteer raptor group.  He is making regular public appearances at events and education programs.


 Athena – Barred Owl (Strix varia) -a medium sized owl measuring 16-25 inches in length with an average 38-50 inch wingspan.  Did You Know?  Barred owls are vocal birds and are notably heard singing “Who cook, who cooks, who cooks for you.”  They are also commonly known as Hoot owls.

Athena, the barred owl, was found in Lincoln County in December of 2009 with major feather damage, a fractured pelvis, two fractured bones in her right wing and blind in her right eye.  Her pelvic and wing injuries were repaired surgically by the Carolina Raptor Center in hopes of returning her back to the wild.  The wing injuries healed but not well enough for Athena to be able to hunt and survive in the wild.  After many months of rehabilitation, flight exercises and physical therapy the staff at CRC decided she was non-releaseable.  Athena is an adult bird of unknown age and most likely a female because of her weight and size.  She arrived at PWC on February 24, 2011 along with another barred owl named Lily.

Athena is a favorite among many of our raptor care and handling volunteers!


KelloggEastern Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata) –

Kellogg came to us as a two-month old baby in 2007 from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. The Museum veterinarian had bred a number of corn snakes and donated Kellogg to us.

He is a favorite of the children (and some adults) who attend our programs.


Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) -
Reina was donated to us in 2011.  She was previously being used as an educational animal, but was no longer needed by her owner.  Reina’s owner donated her to Piedmont Wildlife Center and she has been a great addition after a little bit of socialization!

Kingsnakes are resistant to venom and they will eat venomous snakes that are found in your yard, such as copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes!

Kingsnakes also frequently rattle their tails to mimic rattlesnakes.  This is one way they defend themselves from unwelcome predators!


JadeGreenish Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
The greenish rat snake is a hybrid between the native black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta), which is found in the mountains and Piedmont area, and the yellow rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata), located in the Coastal Plains.  They hybridize naturally in the wild between the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.  The black rat snake is a non-venomous constrictor and mainly eats rodents; however, they can occasionally be found feeding on chicken eggs, which has earned them the nickname “chicken snakes.”

Rat snakes are found throughout North Carolina.  They are a very common species, and black rats have been seen often throughout Leigh Farm Park.  They are adept tree climbers, using the scales on their bellies to grip the bark.  They have adapted to living in urban environments, and you may find one in your yard!

Jade is very social and loves watching your every move.  She loves to be outside and enjoys going to outreach events.


MiracleSilky Ringneck Dove
The silky dove is one of many domesticated doves or pigeons, bred for particular characteristics.  Miracle is a white dove with “frizzled” ends on his feathers, causing the dove not to be able to gain lift and fly.  He flutters to the ground whenever he tries to fly.Did You Know? Miracle was born in a library when the librarian that took care of his parents didn’t notice a third egg laid in the cage and only removed the normal two eggs laid by the parents each spring.  Birds in the wild will lay multiple eggs and double clutches of eggs to ensure that their offspring have a better chance of survival.

Miracle was donated to us in 2009 by “Birdman” Dave Gulick when he moved from the area and couldn’t take Miracle with him.  Miracle is very friendly and likes to be held by the children attending our programs.


ScarletBlack Widow (Latrodectus mactans)–Black widows are a venomous species of arachnid.  The adult females are about 1.5 inches in length, all black, and distinguished by the red hourglass on their abdomen.  Adult males are slightly smaller and do not have the red hourglass.Black widows are usually found in dark, moist, undisturbed areas, such as under fallen logs, in basements or under stones where they spin large cobwebs.  They feed on insects that become caught in their web by injecting digestive enzymes via the fangs.  The black widow is solitary year-round except during mating in the spring or summer.

Black widows earned their name from the misconception that the female usually eats the male soon after mating; this behavior is actually rare.  Spiderlings (babies) will leave the web soon after hatching by producing a silk thread that is caught by the wind; they will not become venomous until fully mature.  Black widows are not aggressive unless provoked, and even though they are venomous, less than 1% of bites are fatal as the female injects a small amount of venom.


Sheldon, Vinny, and Bob- Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) –  Eastern Box Turtles are a native species of turtle that is found along the east coast of the United States.  Their shells have unique markings, with males being more brightly colored than females (Sheldon).  Males have brightly colored heads and front legs with red eyes, whereas females usuallyhave a brown/tan head and front legs.  Occasionally females will have red eyes.  Males also have a slight indentation on their carapace (bottom side of shell) as well as having flared scutes on the back side of their carapace (top side of shell).

The Box turtle received its name because it can close completely in its shell.  Box turtles are the only terrestrial turtles in the United States.  They are usually found near wooded areas, but are frequently found crossing streets due to habitat loss and fragmentation.  Their population is in decline, but we have a healthy population at Leigh Farm Park.  To see more about our conservation efforts at PWC, go here.

Sheldon was a rescue from a group of 100 turtles that were surrendered.  All the turtles had been living indoors together for about 20+ years.  They currently cohabit with our chickens in the warm months and are doing very well.

???????????????????????????????Vinny was stolen off the side of a highway in Virginia.  The people who found him saw him on the side of a busy road and, like most people, thought they were helping him by bringing him back home to Fayetteville.  Luckily, before Vinny was released into their backyard they researched box turtles.  What they found was that when box turtles are relocated outside of their (approximately) 1 acre home-range, they spend the rest of their lives trying to get back home.  In this time, the turtles will not eat or drink and usually perish.  When they found this out they called PWC and we were able to take him in to become a wildlife ambassador.  If we had known where Vinny was picked up, we could have put him back, but all they knew was somewhere off the highway.


Nessie – Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) –???????????????????????????????The bearded dragon is not a native species of lizard.  Bearded dragons are reptiles that are found in central Australia and are desert-dwellers.  Beardies were smuggled into the U.S., and before 1990 it was rare to find one in a pet store.  Now there are countless breeders all over the U.S., but they all descend from a common Australian relative.  They are generally a tan/brown color, but can be bred to be all different colors.  As adults they can reach 1.5 to 2 feet in length.  Beardies are omnivores and like dark greens, veggies, fruits and a variety of insects.

They are social animals in the wild; however, some males will be aggressive towards one another.  They are docile towards humans and make great educational animals for this reason.

Bearded dragons received their name from the behavior they make when mating or defending territory.  They inflate their throat and it can turn black in color, which makes them appear to have a beard.  This is common in many types of lizards, including the native Green Anole which puffs up its red dewlap when it wants the attention of a female.

Nessie once lived in a pet store, until she lost part of her tail which made her unable to be sold. An employee “rescued” her and later donated her to us. Nessie is quite calm and does great at educational events!


Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) –
The chickens joined us during the summer of 2011 and Spring of 2012. We received a couple of them from the Pittsboro feed store, by one of our extraordinary CIT, Colin. The others came to us from Green Button Farm in Bahama, NC.  They are a wonderful addition to Piedmont Wildlife Center providing us with eggs and entertainment.  Our chickens are free-range and enjoy a variety of bugs and plants while roaming around the park.  They are becoming well-socialized and help children get back to the basics about where our food comes from.

 Gone, but not forgotten:

DSCN0314Jess passed away on 3/6/13, from unknown causes.  She was such a great educational bird.  She was a natural in raptor training and from the very first day knew how to stand on a trainer’s glove.  She will be missed by all those that knew her.  Her favorite pastime was falling asleep in her travel crate!Jess (Megascops asio, grey-phase eastern screech owl) was found in January 2012 in a dog house.  She was admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia where she was believed to have been attacked by a wild animal.  She had muscle bruising and atrophy and feather damage to her right wing and an open-wound on her right pectoral muscle.  Due to her injuries she is unable to fly and was deemed unreleasable.  Piedmont Wildlife Center obtained her as a second screech owl and she has proven herself to be a wonderful addition to our educational animal program.