Irvine Nature Center is home to over 60 Animal Ambassadors who are with us as a result of injury, illness, or human intervention. Each animal has a story, and their stories help Irvine’s Naturalists and Educators teach both children and adults about the impact that human development can have on native animal species.
We invite you to visit our Animal Ambassadors during Irvine’s business hours — either in our Exhibit Hall or our Aviary — and make a connection to our planet in a special and personal way.
Irvine’s Great Horned Owl was found after she had fallen from her nest as a hatchling. She was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator where she imprinted on this caregiver -- that is -- she bonded and identified with humans rather than identifying as an owl. Unable to be released into the wild, she now lives at Irvine. She loves to take showers in the rain and play with her favorite toy: a tennis ball.
Great Horned Owl
Our red tailed hawk came to Irvine after she suffered a car accident that left her with an injured wing and a missing toe in 2009. She is an older bird and has developed cataracts in both eyes, which make it more difficult for her to see. None of these ailments slow her down; she is the kindest and most patient bird in our care!
Red Tailed Hawk
Irvine's red shouldered hawk overcame life-threatening injuries sustained in a car accident in 2012. As a result, he is missing a wing and was not able to be released back into the wild. Despite everything he's been through, he's still a spunky guy! He loves to eat mice and play with his enrichment toys. He's learned to balance in spite of his missing wing and makes a great Animal Ambassador in our community.
Red Shouldered Hawk
Irvine's barred owl is an example of what can happen when humans interfere in the development of hatchlings -- she was taken from her nest as an owlet and hand-raised by a well-meaning human. Unfortunately, human care resulted in our barred owl never developing the skills necessary to be a wild owl. She was surrendered to Irvine in 2003 and has been with us ever since.
Irvine's American kestrel joined our Animal Ambassador team at the end of 2019. He comes from the Patuxent Research Refuge. He suffered a wing injury that makes him ineligible for release back into the wild, so he now calls Irvine home.
As a young joey, this sweet girl was separated from her mother and attacked by another animal. The result was a facial puncture wound and injuries to her feet that took months of care and rehabilitation. Irvine Nature Center became this opossum's home in 2019 and she's been growing and learning here ever since. She loves to nap in her hammock, eat blueberries and grapes, and even enjoys the occasional snake egg.
Our gray rat snake is another former pet that was surrendered to Irvine Nature Center. He's nearly fifteen years old and enjoys spending his days curled around the tree branch in his enclosure.
Gray Rat Snake
The corn snake is a North American species of rat snake that is found throughout the southeastern and central United States, and can be found frequently in corn fields where it preys on mice and other small rodents. Irvine's corn snakes were personal pets that were surrendered, and they spend much of their time burrowed in their enclosure.
Garter snakes can be found throughout the United States and are one of the most common snakes you might find in your backyard. These thin snakes feast on diets of insects, amphibians, small fish, rodents, and small birds. Irvine's garter snake was surrendered to us by someone who had kept her as a pet. She is blind in one eye, which would make hunting in the wild an additional challenge.
Wood turtles are native to our area and can be found as far north as Canada and as far south as Virginia. Irvine's wood turtle came to us after being hit by a car.
Eastern box turtles are native to our region and can be found in the woods -- if you have very good eyes. Their camouflage makes it difficult to find them among the leaves, rocks, and branches in their native habitat. Despite being hard to find, all of Irvine's box turtles came to us after some sort of accident -- either with predators or cars.