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WildCare November eNews. Photo by Don Koss

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spacer   bird print bullet 
points gorgeous golden eagles
    bird print bullet 
points join us for evening with owls on november 18
    bird print bullet 
points when you feed birds...
    bird print bullet 
points volunteer in the wildlife hospital! orientations January 28 and 29, 2012
    bird print bullet 
points 2011 photography contest winners
    bird print bullet 
points banana slugs — what's not to love?
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points walk on the wild side
    bird print bullet 
points great gift ideas for november
Jim Cairnes building an eagle nest. Photo by Alison Hermance spacer
Arborist Jim Cairnes weaves together an eagle nest atop an 80-foot pole. Photo by Alison Hermance spacer
Eagle nest building. Photo by Cathy Little  
With branches, bark and twigs in place, the platforms look much more attractively nest-like... at least to humans! Photo by Cathy Little, CNLM  
Measuring the eagle's beak. Photo by Alison Hermance  
Before the radio transmitter was attached to his tail, the eagle's measurements were taken and he was given a leg band. Photo by Alison Hermance  
Keith Smith's plane  
WildCare Volunteer Keith Smith will be attempting to track the eagle from his small plane, known as a "Chrisen Eagle," with paint to match.  
Eagle in the aviary. Photo by Alison Hermance spacer
The eagle has a 7.5' wingspan and weighed approximately 4900 grams when he arrived in Olema. Photo by Alison Hermance spacer
The attached transmitter. Photo by Alison Hermance spacer
The transmitter attached to the base of a tail feather doesn't seem to bother the eagle at all. Photo by Alison Hermance spacer

gorgeous golden eagles

Golden Eagles are California's largest raptor species. With individual wingspans measuring more than seven feet, they are much larger than the more common Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures that share their habitat.

These eagles can be seen throughout the Bay Area and in fact, the San Francisco East Bay region around the Altamont Pass has the highest density of nesting Golden Eagles anywhere in the world. A 2005 survey showed 58 active Golden Eagle territories in the East Bay, all of the birds likely benefiting from locally high California Ground Squirrel populations.

But these birds face many hazards, and although the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act give them federal protection, innovative conservation and research projects offer additional hope for their ongoing survival.

if you build it, they will come...

The success of an eagle's nest can be greatly affected by human encroachment, and on a section of preserved land near Dublin, California, concern about a nesting pair of Golden Eagles led to an unusual project.

Wildlife Ecologist Colleen Lenihan of H.T. Harvey & Associates / Ecological Consultants has monitored the nest site since 1989. In most years, the birds have nested in a eucalyptus tree on a protected and privately-owned 267-acre parcel (Preserve) now managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM www.cnlm.org).

In 2010, CNLM accepted perpetual management responsibilities and an endowment and now holds a conservation easement over the Preserve to help ensure that it will be retained as open space. However, even though the Preserve is protected from development, several subdivisions have been constructed nearby, and a new road has been built within sight of the nest.

Understanding the importance of maintaining nesting success at the site, the subdivision developer undertook mitigation measures to reduce disturbance within the nesting territory. A “view-shed” buffer zone was developed that preserves the natural areas within line of sight of the nest, and no construction activity is allowed in close proximity to the nest during the breeding season (January-July).

But ensuring the future of these threatened birds requires creative thinking, and with plans for expansion of surrounding development, an additional mitigation measure in the form of large poles with nesting platforms placed deeper in the Preserve was needed.

Two 80-foot poles were installed in 2007, and although the eagles quickly began to use these pole platforms for perching and feeding their fledglings, they had not yet used them for nesting. This summer, to make the poles more attractive as alternative nesting sites, arborist and WildCare volunteer Jim Cairnes of Small World Tree Company climbed the poles and wove together wreaths of nesting material to entice the birds.

Although there is no guarantee the birds will use the platforms for nesting, it is innovative conservation measures like these that will ensure the success of these beautiful birds in the Bay Area. 

fly like an eagle

Federal protection of Golden Eagles restricts hunting and deliberate destruction of nests, but habitat loss and man-made hazards like windmills and power lines may be even bigger threats to the survival of the species. Scientific data on these birds is scarce, especially research on young Golden Eagles that have been released from rehabilitation. Very little is know about how rehabilitated birds deal with the hazards of their world.

On July 30, 2011 a juvenile Golden Eagle was admitted to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (SCWR), a wildlife rehabilitation center in Petaluma. This bird was emaciated and dehydrated and suffering from a blood parasite that attacks immunocompromised birds. At his age, this bird should have been hopping between branches and taking short experimental flights while his parents continued to feed him. For unknown reasons, however, this bird's parents had stopped feeding him, so he was starving and close to death when he arrived at SCWR. 

Supportive care brought him back to health, and after he had gained enough weight, he was put in SCWR's 100-foot flight aviary for several weeks, where he underwent flight conditioning and hunting assessment. Then he was sent to WildCare’s Raptor Flight Aviary in Olema, from which he will be released early this month.

This bird offers a unique opportunity to the rehab and raptor study communities. He is a first-year bird, meaning he fledged in 2011, so he doesn’t yet have his own territory. He fully recovered from his illnesses and is completely healthy. Healthy enough, in fact, to carry a radio transmitter that will allow tracking of his movements upon release!

East Bay Regional Park District raptor experts fitted the eagle with a radio transmitter on his tail feathers which will allow ground crews to follow his movements, and WildCare volunteer Keith Smith to track him in his small plane. Post-release information on this beautiful bird will be tremendously useful to wildlife rehabilitators around the country for understanding how first-year birds released from rehab fare in the wild. Tracking his movements and behavior will also be useful to raptor experts interested in the success of juvenile eagles.

Check WildCare’s December eNews for updates on tracking this bird after he is released! 

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Click for tickets to the Evening with Owls 
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  Hummingbirds at feeder. Photo by Linda Levy

Feeding birds can spread disease when individuals that would normally maintain healthy distances from each other come together in close proximity. Photo by Linda Levy

  Squirrel stealing peanuts

When you feed birds, you also attract squirrels. Photo by John Campbell http://gardenvan.com

  Raccoon and birdfeeder. Photo by Brenda Jaszewski

When you feed birds you also attract omnivores. Photo by Brenda Jaszewski

  Rat at birdfeeder. Photo by Laura Lind

When you feed birds you also attract rats. Photo by Laura Lind

  Bobcat with rodent. Photo by Trish Carney trishcarney.com

When you attract rats you attract larger carnivores. Photo by Trish Carney

  Coyote territories overlap ours. Photo by Helen Pass

The California Department of Fish and Game has a saying: “A fed coyote is a dead coyote.” Complaints from the public about habituated coyotes often result in the animal being euthanized. Photo by Shannon Smith

  Xray of a raccoon shot by a pellet gun. Photo by Stephen Sha

Radiograph of a raccoon with shotgun pellets in its face. When wild animals become accustomed to handouts they lose their natural fear, and can become victims of people who don’t want them around. Photo by Stephen Shaw

  Stalking Mountain Lion. Photo from CA DFG
  If you feed deer, you attract Mountain Lions. Wild animals are attracted to food, water and shelter. In our dry summers, deer love our lush, well-watered gardens. Native plants feed a variety of wild animals without encouraging overpopulation of any one species. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Game

when you feed birds...

Many people enjoy feeding wildlife because it allows them to have closer contact with these animals. Often they think they are helping the animals to survive, especially in an urban environment. It isn’t true. Wild animals that are in your neighborhood have survived there because there is available food, water and shelter.

Most urban wild animals eat a variety of vegetation and small vertebrates (such as mice) and invertebrates (such as centipedes and spiders) which are plentiful even in the most settled residential neighborhoods. If an animal is in your neighborhood, you can rest assured that there is plenty of food available, or the animal simply would not be living there.

For centuries these animals have existed without us feeding them. This is still the case. While feeding the animals can be fun for humans, it is usually detrimental for the animals, and will harm them more than it could help. What harm does it do?

loss of foraging skills

When wild animals begin to depend on humans for food, their foraging skills may be diminished. When young wild animals are taught to depend on humans for food, they may become less experienced at foraging and thus less likely to survive.

loss of fear

Wild animals that are used to being fed by humans commonly lose their fear of people. Animals that are unafraid of people will approach them for food, and are sometimes mistaken for rabid and killed. They also become easy targets for kids with BB guns and others who mean them harm. An instinctive wariness of people is important to a wild animal’s survival.

inadequate nutrition

The food fed to animals by humans is nutritionally inadequate and can cause serious health problems for the animals, especially when they are young and still developing. Just like humans, most urban animals need a variety of foods in their diets, and if they fill up on “junk” foods, they will not get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Most humans will feed animals food that they have in their houses – people or pet food – which bears little or no resemblance to what the animals eat in the wild.

spread of disease

Animals (like humans!) are opportunistic, and will go for the most convenient food source available. Who doesn’t like a free meal? When food is readily available, animals will gather in abnormally large numbers. This means that if one animal in the group has an illness or a disease, it can spread throughout the group. Many wild animals only interact with others of their own species during mating season and when raising their young, so feeding causes unnatural closeness.

WildCare recommends supporting wildlife with wildlife gardens, not feeders. However, If you do have bird feeders, please clean them regularly. Feeders can develop fungi and bacteria deadly to birds.

interference with migratory patterns

Feeding migratory animals such as ducks, geese and some passerines (perching birds), such as hummingbirds, can interfere with the animals’ awareness of seasonal changes in natural food supplies, which tell the animal when it is time to migrate. This has been a large problem with Canada Geese in some parts of the country, including California. Human food sources are so plentiful that some Canada Geese no longer migrate, but continue to reproduce to the point where they have been removed or killed because they have become such a nuisance.


Reproduction rates may also be affected when an artificial food source is readily available. In the wild, the number of animals being born is often related to the amount of natural food available. The number of young that survive will also depend on how much food is available. This is nature’s way of maintaining a balance, and making sure there are not too many animals in one area. When an unnatural food supply becomes available, animals may produce more young and the result may be that more animals live in the area than the natural food sources and habitat area can support. If that food source suddenly becomes unavailable, animals could starve to death.

creating nuisance wildlife

A common phone call we receive at WildCare comes from people whose neighbors have been feeding wild animals. Often animals have become a nuisance and the caller wants them killed or removed. Many people do not think about the neighborhood impact when they start feeding wildlife. Wild animals do not usually discriminate between one human and another, and will often start pestering neighbors. They may cause damage to homes and property because they expect to be fed, and have lost their fear of people.

loss of biodiversity

Animals need habitats that provide a diversity of food, shelter and water sources. Loss or degradation of habitat has accounted for 88% of the endangered or threatened animal species listed in the United States.

Since 1998 more people in the world now live in cities than in wild or rural areas. Cities and suburbs are separate ecosystems. Wildlife is adapting to humans in different ways. Some animals are driven further and further away from people, and the loss of their habitat is threatening them with extinction. Other species thrive among people and overpopulate.

commensal species

Ecologists use the term “commensal” to refer to those species that have developed a relationship with another species. The word commensal derives from the Latin words cum mensa meaning “sharing a table.” In a commensal relationship, one organism benefits, but the other is neutral. Examples include the relationships between ravens and wolves, cattle egrets and livestock, barnacles and scallops, orchids and trees, and people and urban rats.

As people evolve, so do commensal species, and species like raccoons, opossums, skunks and pigeons are adapting to human development. Feeding them is killing them with kindness and pushing out less adaptable species.

If we really care about wildlife and want them to survive, feeding them is not the answer. There are other ways to enjoy wildlife without doing them harm. Visits to local parks and to WildCare, camping trips, or planting native plants, which are a natural food source, will all provide mutually beneficial opportunities.

Please help wild animals by enjoying them from a distance – their lives depend on it. 

Volunteers cleaning a newborn fawn. Photo by Kelle Kacmarcik
Volunteers cleaning a newborn fawn. Meet fawns and other amazing wild animals as a WildCare Hospital Volunteer! 

volunteer in the wildlife hospital

Volunteers needed! You can volunteer in WildCare's Wildlife Hospital and experience the amazing wild animals we treat every day!

Orientations for 2012 will be held January 28 and 29, 2012. Choose one orientation to attend. Note: These will be the only orientations in 2012 and your only opportunity to volunteer with the animals in the next year!

Click to register for one of the 2012 New Volunteer Orientations!

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living with wildlife photography contest winners

Congratulations to our 2011 contest winners!

Our judges had a difficult job to choose the top photos out of the nearly 200 gorgeous entries we received this year.

Below are the judged Best in Show and Best in Category winners and the People's Choice!

Click to see the top 21 photos in this year's contest and check back for more information on next year's competition!

Marsh Wren Leap of Faith. Photo by Christine Hansen
Best in Show
Marsh Wren Leap of Faith
Christine Hansen
Gulls Fighting. Photo by Karen Eikeland   Foggy Day Yawn on Lichens. Photo by Janet Kessler
Best Bay Area Wild Birds in Their
Natural Settings
Gulls Fighting
Karen Eikeland

Best Bay Area Wild Anmals (Other) in Their
Natural Settings
Foggy Day Yawn on Lichens
Janet Kessler


Foggy Morning. Photo by Christine Churchill


Best General Nature
Foggy Morning, Sonoma County
Christine Churchill


Sacramento River humpback. Photo by Christopher Whittier

Best Living with Wildlife
Sacramento River Humpback (Benicia)
Christopher Whittier

Peeking around a tree. Photo by Janet Kessler
                    The People's Choice
Peeking Around a Tree
                          Janet Kessler
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Banana Slugs mating ritual. Photo by Gerald and Buff Corsi spacer
Banana slugs' mating dance ritual ensures that they are of the same species and both are ready to breed. Photo by Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences spacer
UCSC mascot Sammy the Slug spacer

Around UCSC campus, Sammy the Slug can be seen at sports events and other functions. During the men’s tennis team run in the NCAA championships, their t-shirts read: “Banana slugs – No Known Predators.” (Not true, by the way.)

 Scene from Pulp Fiction spacer
Quentin Tarrantino is apparently another fan of the banana slug, and specifically asked John Travolta to wear the UCSC mascot’s t-shirt for this scene in his movie Pulp Fiction. spacer
Banana Slug. Photo by Lauren Lui spacer

Two sets of tentacles function as sensory organs. The opening is its single lung. Photo by Lauren Lui

Banana Slug eating mushrooms. Photo by Jo-Ann Ordano  

Banana slug eating mushrooms Photo by Jo-Ann Ordano © California Academy of Sciences

Banana slug. Photo by William Leonard  

An albino banana slug. Photo by William Leonard

Albino banana slug. Photo by William Leonard  

A mottled banana slug. Photo by William Leonard

Another subspecies of Banana slug. Photo by Richard Sage  

Another subspecies of mottled banana slug. Photo by Richard Sage

California Banana Slug. Photo by Charles Webber  
California Banana Slug (Ariolimax californicus)  Photo by Charles Webber © California Academy of Sciences  

banana slugs – what’s not to love?

There is a small, slimy, shell-less mollusk that resides in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It eats anything from animal droppings to dead plant material. It leaves a slimy trail of mucus wherever it goes. Sounds like a creature that most people would avoid, but luckily for the banana slug, people have embraced them and their slime. They are a favorite with the kids who take our field trips to Muir Woods, but little kids aren’t the only ones who love banana slugs. The University of California at Santa Cruz adopted this flexible non-aggressive little gastropod as their official mascot!

a mascot?

Before UCSC had a collegiate level sports team, they had a wide-ranging physical education program designed to introduce the largest possible number of students to lifelong physical fitness. It was at this time that the banana slug became the unofficial mascot of UCSC. Banana slugs could be found all over the scenic UCSC campus, and became favorites of the students. When UCSC joined the NCAA, the Chancellor chose a new mascot, the Sea Lion, saying banana slugs were yellow, slimy and spineless. But it was too late. After five years of wrangling, the students demanded their beloved banana slug, and in a vote ratio of 15-1 the banana slug won.

There is a reason banana slugs love the Santa Cruz area. Banana slugs seem to prefer moist conditions, and various species of banana slugs are found primarily in the mild climates found along the Northeast Pacific Coast, from southeast Alaska to Palomar Mountain in San Diego. Santa Cruz is right in the middle of this habitat. There are at least eight species, each living in different parts of this range, all very similar in appearance and only distinguishable by differences in internal anatomy and molecular characters.

slimy little fellows

Banana slugs are shell-less snails. They are the second largest terrestrial slugs in the world and the largest in North America, growing six to ten inches in length. Banana slugs get their name from the yellow color of some species, and the general cylindrical body shape, but individuals of some species can come in a variety of colors, from white to almost completely black, greenish-brown and everything in between, sometimes including dark spots over their base color.

The banana slug has two pairs of tentacles on its head that function as sensory organs. The lower, shorter pair is for feeling and smelling. Between the two lower tentacles is the mouth. The mouth has a radula, a tongue-like organ covered in numerous tiny teeth. The upper, longer pair of tentacles are periscope-like eye-stems. The dark spots at the end of the tentacles are the eyes. If you watch a banana slug as it searches for food, you can observe it stretching and turning its eyes in all directions as it looks for its next meal. If danger comes near, the tentacles can be retracted in the “blink of an eye.”

Banana slugs are omnivores, meaning they eat a wide variety of foods, dead and alive. Mushrooms are a preferred food, but they will also eat plants, lichens, seeds, fruits and even dead animals and animal droppings. Oddly, banana slugs are not known to eat any part of a redwood tree.

Banana slugs are slimy – and that’s good for them! What most people call slime is actually a mucous coating that serves many useful purposes. It helps the banana slug’s skin stay moist, and the mucous coating also provides a protective barrier from sharp rocks and other hazards the banana slug may encounter. In fact, their slime is thick enough that an individual could cross a razor blade and not get cut! The mucus allows the banana slug to slide along the ground, or up a post, or underneath a leaf, leaving a gleaming trail slime in its wake (and at a whopping 6.5 inches per minute!) The slugs breathe through their lungs, and water is absorbed through the foot.

few predators

Banana slugs may be cute, but don’t kiss one. Their slime tastes bad – a natural deterrent to predators – and it contains analgesic properties that can make your lips go a little numb. The texture of their slime also deters predators, even though hungry raccoons will get around this by rolling a banana slug in dirt before eating it.

how do you tell a boy from a girl?

Banana slug reproduction is unusual to say the least. They are hermaphrodites, meaning that each has both male and female reproductive organs. Moreover, they readily self-fertilize, and some populations seem to be made up of individuals that only self-fertilize. In these populations, the animals do not even have a penis. However, many will seek out a mate when the time is right.

Banana slugs have a “mating dance” ritual that ensures that they are both of the same species and ready to breed. During the dance, there is circling, lunging, nipping, hitting each other with their tails, and toward the end, usually a display of their sexual organs. And what a display it is! A banana slug’s penis can be half as long as its body, earning it the distinction of having the largest penis-to-body length ratio of almost any animal. (Barnacles have penises that are several times the length of the animal, so they have that distinction.)

As the dance comes to an end, the banana slugs intertwine and insert their penises into each other's genital opening, sometimes inserting the penises simultaneously into each other, and sometimes taking turns transferring sperm from one to another. In a few instances in two species one slug has been seen to chew off the other’s penis before it can disengage. The reason for such bizarre behavior is unknown.

After copulation the eggs are fertilized internally, and eventually the slugs will lay up to 50 eggs or more under chunks of bark, in a crevice or underground. The eggs hatch after one to two months, and the young simply look like miniature banana slugs. Maturing quickly, by the end of the first season the babies cannot be distinguished from their parents.

slug spotting

Banana slugs are fascinating, charismatic creatures that we are still learning more about. We are just starting to scratch the surface (or possibly the slime), and as we learn, we are beginning to appreciate them more for their role in enriching and stabilizing the ecosystems they inhabit. Banana slug scat provides nutrient-rich fertilizer as well as helping to scatter spores and seeds for new plant growth.

In general, banana slugs are seen most often in early morning and late afternoon.  However, during the winter months or after a good rain, you can usually spot them out during the day. To find them in the warmer, drier months, look in leaf litter near creeks, tree root tangles and other moist places.

Some of the best national parks to find banana slugs in are Muir Woods National Monument, Point Reyes National Seashore, Redwood National and State Parks, Olympic National Park and the Fort Clatsop National Memorial unit of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. 

winter nature camp at wildcare

Click to register your child online today!

Nature Detectives
December 19 - 22, 2011  9am - 3pm
Kindergarten - 1st Grade
$220 (scholarships available, email anya@wildcarebayarea.org)

Who nibbled this plant? Who left that track? Let’s look around and see if we can discover what animal did that. Have fun with animal tracks, fur, feathers and more. We’ll meet some animals that leave those clues behind. We’ll examine the differences between mammals, birds, insects and others. Come join us to learn, play games, make crafts, and more! Click to register...

Winter Adaptations
December 27 - 30, 2011  9am - 3pm
1st - 2nd Grade
$220 (scholarships available, email anya@wildcarebayarea.org)

What do animals do when winter makes its chilly debut? Some like to snack, while others may nap. Many travel a short or long way, and then there are some that like to stay. Get up close and personal with our animal friends and discovery how they survive until winter ends. Join us to learn about our wild animal neighbors, play games, make crafts, and more! Click to register...


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walk on the wild side

On October 23, Whole Foods Market sponsored a "Walk with WildCare" nature hike at Lake Lagunitas in Fairfax. More than 50 families joined the fun, and proceeds went to WildCare. Whole Foods Market publicized the event through their stores, provided breakfast, snacks, drinks and prizes for walkers. WildCare's naturalists were on hand to speak with people and to teach about native wildlife at four naturalist stations set up along the beautiful 1.8 mile walk around the lake.

Thanks to Whole Foods Market and the Marin Municipal Water District for partnering with WildCare for this wonderful event. We hope to hold a similar event next year. 

Walk with WildCare at Lake Lagunitas. Photo by David Taylor Whole Foods Market provided goodie bags for young hikers. Whole Foods Market provided a delicious and healthy breakfast
Crafts, coloring and face-painting entertained young hikers. Everyone could peek into WildCare's Nature Van. Kids of all ages came to the event.
Whole Foods Market's breakfast was delicious and nutritious. Face-painters were in high demand and outdid themselves! Choose antlers or rabbit ears for your hiking headgear
Beautiful Lake Lagunitas. Photo by David Taylor Walk this way! Signs directed walkers to naturalist stations Get stamps on your Junior Naturalist passport a get a prize!
Volunteer naturalists at 4 stations shared fun facts. The outing was perfect for families. Touching taxidermy and learning was part of the fun
Wonderful WildCare Volunteers staffed naturalist stations All in a day's work for WildCare Nature Guide Volunteers. Whole Foods goodie bags were perfect for the hike.
Hands-on teaching with taxidermy enhanced the experie WildCare Director of Education and a happy participant. Playing in the creek near the picnic area was a treat too.
Crafts and face-painting were fun for all. The face-painters were in high demand! WildCare staffers enjoyed the event too.
Kids of all ages enjoyed the beautiful day. Face-painting, hiking and learning too? What fun! A yummy lunch of peanut butter sandwiches closed the day.
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great gift ideas for november

Goodbyn-- the perfect lunchbox

WildCare Logo

Gift Memberships

      Tom Turkey, photo by Christina Brandon

The Perfect (and Eco-friendly) Lunchbox

Choose a fun, eco-friendly and personalizable Goodbyn lunchbox!

WildCare logo-wear also makes a great gift! Choose from a cool selection of caps, tees and sweatshirts on our Shop page, or visit WildCare and choose from an even larger selection!

The Gift of Wildlife

When you give a WildCare gift membership, your gift recipients will receive all the benefits of WildCare membership as well as the knowledge that, as WildCare members, they help create a healthy and sustainable habitat for humans and animals alike.
What a perfect gift!

Adopt a Wild Turkey

Or choose another extraordinary wild animal to adopt for that someone special! Your gift recipient will receive an art-quality photo of your chosen animal, a personalized certificate of adoption and a page of informative natural history.

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