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On Sunday, April 27, Fester, our raccoon passed away. He was 16 years old and will be deeply missed. While he was a raccoon with wild instincts, I compared his personality to a mischievous puppy.  He would greet me at the door in the morning and afternoon for a treat and then sneak out his exhibit door as I left. After a quick walk down the hall he would take a grape from me and walk back into his exhibit for the day.  Grapes were one of his favorite foods. 

Always curious, he would knock over my buckets daily, pull on my radio, and play with my keys. His sensitive and dextrous fingers were constantly working.  He loved his occasional crayfish or minnow treat.  He could grab a minnow out of the water at remarkable speeds, even in his old age.

Fester would do anything for a treat, and one of our part-time keepers trained him over the summer to wave his little hand for a snack.  Soon it became a full-blown stand, reaching out with both hands for anything we might give him. He will forever hold a special place in my heart. Each day I walk by his exhibit from now on, I’m sure I will smile in remembrance of his antics.

Young barn owls are growing up!
Mom and Dad are doing a great job of defending their babies to ensure that they make it to become adults.
Can you see two owlets?

Can you see two owlets?

Notice what the owls have lined their next box with—hundreds of owl pellets!  Whenever an owl eats a mouse, they will eat the entire animal including the bones and fur.  Their stomach will grind and compress all the bones and fur and the following day the owl will cough it up in the form of a pellet.  [Picture courtesy of Brandon Moyer]

At least three new barn owls have been hatched right on their exhibit according to Tal, the naturalist of the Eastern Woodlands.  That brings our grand total of barn owls to 13!  We won’t keep all of them, but ZooAmerica will share with other zoos.  So far, one adult owl will go to the Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut, two adults to Northwest Trek Zoo in Washington and one more to the Audubon Western Conservancy.

As soon as one of the babies is 5-8 weeks old, the education department at ZooAmerica will take him.  After that period, the owlet will no longer need to be fed every three hours by his mother, but can eat whole mice on his own.  Each day the young owl might eat 4 or 5 whole mice!  Then the education department will raise him so that he is used to being around people and can be easily trained.

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