Wildlife Ambassadors

Our educational animals serve as ambassadors for their individual species. All of our ambassadors have permanent homes at PWC. They each came from a rescue situation, most commonly from an owner-surrender. Our raptors were all rehabilitated after obtaining extensive injuries, but deemed non-releasable due to their inability to fly.  Each ambassador has an important lesson to teach about wildlife conservation. Through their lessons, they teach citizens how easy it is to help conserve wildlife and our hope is that these lessons get passed on to others.

Give us a call at 919-489-0900 if you would like to have any of our wildlife ambassadors 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 American culture their 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.


Katara – Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamiacensis)

kataraKatara was just a juvenile when she came to the Piedmont Wildlife Center from Atlanta, Georgia in October 2014. A man found Katara with an injured wing after she had flown into his window. He contacted Atlanta Wildlife Animal Rescue Effort, who treated Katara for her injuries. Katara’s right humerus had been damaged and did not heal properly so she can no longer fly.

Katara arrived at the Piedmont Wildlife Center in October 2014.


 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!


 Apollo – Barred Owl (Strix varia)


Apollo was found in Morganton, NC in May of 2015 with major feather damage, a fracture in his left wing, and soft tissue wounds.  His fracture was repaired surgically by Carolina Raptor Center.  The wing injuries healed, but not well enough for Apollo to be able to hunt and survive in the wild.  Apollo is not a silent hunter and it would be very hard for him to sneak up on prey.

Apollo came to us as a juvenile, so we know that he was born in the spring of 2015. He arrived at PWC on December 9, 2015.


Bellatrix – Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) 10405692_10152626398912277_8452678870823183322_n

Meet Bellatrix! She is a great horned owl that was believed to be hit by a car. She went to Carolina Raptor Center with multiple fractures to her left wing. She can fly, but not that well and wouldn’t survive in the wild. The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common owls in the Americas. These large owls have prominent ear tufts and brightly colored eyes.Great Horned Owls have an extremely broad diet: small to medium sized mammals and rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even small invertebrates are part of their diet. These owls are capable of taking large prey as well, even other large birds like Barred Owls and Ospreys. They are also the only animals to prey upon Skunks as a normal part of their diet. Great Horned Owls are mostly crepuscular; they hunt most between dawn and dusk.


willowWillow – Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) 

Willow was found in a road in Huntersville, NC with a squirrel nearby. We assume that she was hunting the squirrel and was hit by a vehicle. Willow sustained a list of injuries, including a fractured radius, a fractured ulna, and a fractured metacarpus. Willow needed two pins to reset the bones in her left wing, both of which have since been removed. However, due to the severity of the injury, Willow is only partially flighted.

Willow arrived at the Piedmont Wildlife Center in October 2014.



Parsley – Domestic Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

In the winter of 2013, Piedmont Wildlife Center received a phone call about a domestic rabbit on the side of the road in Durham, NC.  Assuming it was really an eastern cottontail, we asked the person to send in photos.  What we saw was not an Eastern cottontail, but was a very cute juvenile domestic rabbit.  Not fit for survival on the side of a busy road in Durham, or outside at all, PWC picked her up from the person that called.instagramSince the day Parsley arrived, she has been the sweetest bunny.  She quickly allowed program participants to pet her and is learning to walk on a leash!  She’s a huge hit among all guests at our programs and among the staff at PWC.  How could you not love that sweet face?


Izzy – Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum)DSCN1187

Izzy was purchased in 2013 at a reptile show in NC, and donated to PWC after his owner could no longer care for him.Izzy is shy, spending a large amount of time hiding, but he is very friendly when picked up and never bites.Fun Fact: The name “milksnake” was derived from old wives tales about snakes sneaking into barns at night, and stealing milk from cows!


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.


Reina – 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.


Miracle – Silky 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.


Penelope – Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginianus)penelope

Penelope came to Piedmont Wildlife Center in October, 2014. She came from the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort in Atlanta, Georgia when she was just four months old. She was found in the road, covered in black goo, possibly asphalt. She was disoriented. She was found to have neurological issues that inhibit her ability to climb, so she would not survive in the wild.Penelope is very sweet and enjoys her daily cuddle time. We are very excited to have her as one of our Wildlife Ambassadors!


Terra Eastern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)IMG_3234

Terra came to Piedmont Wildlife Center because her previous owners were downsizing their family. When Terra is not swimming she is usually digging in her rocks looking for food. She loves minnows and worms, but watch out, your finger might look like a tasty treat to Terra!Terrapins can be found along the Atlantic coast of the eastern U.S. from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys and along the Gulf Coast to Texas. They are believed to be the only turtle in the world that lives only in   brackish water (where salt and fresh water meet).


Sheldon, Shelly, Vinny, Legacy, 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 usually have 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 & Shelly were rescues 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 2011and 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.

 Jackson – Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

The Mississippi Kite is a small raptor in the hawk family (Accipitridae). They hunt “on the wing”, usually for insects. They are graceful in flight, and often hover in the air. This behavior helped lead to the invention of the toy kite.

Jackson was found as a juvenile in Richland County in South Carolina in August of 2015. He was emaciated and had a parasite (protozoan) called Trichomoniasis. This protozoan is not uncommon in bird species, but if left untreated can cause anorexia. After the infection was cleared, no other injuries were found. Unfortunately, Jackson still was unable to fly well enough to hunt and has a head tilt for unknown reasons.

Jackson arrived at PWC in December of 2015. We are excited to have such a unique individual as part of our educational ambassador team! He should be an excellent teacher!


 Edgar – Common Raven (Corvus corax)

The common raven is a large bird that forages primarily on carrion. They also eat small mammals, birds, and reptiles, eggs, insects, fish, and more. Similar to owls and hawks, ravens regurgitate pellets of bones/fur that cannot be digested. These are rare to find in the wild because the raven will pick through it to find more food!

Edgar was found in Washington State by a hunter. He was unable to walk and was brought to South Sound Critter Care near Seattle, WA. They discovered that he had been shot 4 times, and survived to tell a tale! He was shot in his right wing, right leg, and chest. Due to this he is unable to fly but does great in captivity with hopping around.

Although it is illegal to shoot most birds in the United States, they are frequent visitors to rehabilitation centers. Although birds can seem like a nuisance on occasion, they play an important role in the ecosystem. Ravens prefer carrion (dead animals), and help in the clean-up of roadkill and other dead animals that could spread disease.

Guacamole – Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)

As their name implies, mole kingsnakes are accomplished burrowers and spend a lot of time underground. Because of their elusive behavior mole kingsnakes are rarely seen, but are usually found in a variety of open habitats including fields, sandhills, and woodlands. They range from Florida north to Virginia and west to Texas and Kansas. In North Carolina mole kingsnakes are most common in the Piedmont region.

Mole kingsnakes are moderately large, non-venomous snakes ranging from 30-46 inches in length. These snakes are usually light brown with a row of reddish brown blotches running down the length of their body. These snakes have smooth dorsal scales, relatively small heads, and can live to be 14 years old. The name kingsnake means that these snakes will eat other snakes. They may also prey on small mammals, lizards, and occasionally birds.