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article imagePhoto Essay: Where the wild things are in Savannah Special

By Kay Mathews     Jun 26, 2013 in Environment
Savannah - Oatland Island Wildlife Center is home to a number of animals native to Georgia. Walking along the beautiful nature trail, visitors can see numerous wild animals including birds of prey, foxes, lizards, tortoises and much more.
The Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah, a unit of Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, is dedicated to conservation, education, and discovery. The center’s Facebook page states, “The mission of the Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah is to provide our guests with memorable experiences to help them make stronger connections to the natural world.”
It was a day of discovery and re-connecting with nature for this guest. At the gate, I was handed a trail guide that stated there is a 1.75 mile nature trail on the grounds along with a parking area, welcome center, and other sites. Even though it was hot and humid on this Georgia afternoon, I chose to hike the nature trail in the hope of seeing some of the animals featured in the trail guide.
I passed the "Bison" exhibit where the animals were under a far shelter eating some hay, and then made my way to the "Wolf Wilderness" exhibit. There I learned that animals can, at times, be smarter than humans in that they were not venturing out on this very hot afternoon. I continued on my journey without seeing any wolves, and soon realized that it may be naptime for some animals. A Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), seen below, was snoozing away.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
On one of the trail's boardwalks I came across what I later found out is a Broad-headed Skink (Eumeces laticeps). The bright blue colors of the Broad-headed Skink’s tail, featured below, indicate that this lizard is a juvenile. According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, “The bright color pattern of juveniles gradually fades to the uniform tan of old adults.”
Broad-headed Skink (Eumeces laticeps) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Broad-headed Skink (Eumeces laticeps) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
The trail itself is absolutely beautiful and reminds visitors that it has been carefully carved into a wilderness area. The trail guide also reminds visitors that "The animals you will see today are wild, not pets, and live here because they are unable to survive on their own in the wild. Many have been injured; some were orphaned or born in captivity."
Trail amidst wilderness at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Trail amidst wilderness at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
The "Birds of Prey" exhibit proved to be very interesting and informative. It is always inspiring to see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
Bald Eagle at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Bald Eagle at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
I found it was hard to take my eyes off of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus); who, in fact, kept its eyes on me as well.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
The exhibit featured a number of birds that I had not seen before including the Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). A Red-Shouldered Hawk is featured below.
Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
After hearing from other visitors that the cougar was not out and about, and finding that I, too, had had enough of the heat and humidity for the day, I decided to call it a day and make plans to visit again. On my next visit, I hope to see the wolves, cougar, and bobcats as well as visit the main building which houses, among other things, alligators, snakes, and turtles.
As I exited Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah, I did get to see a Gopher Tortoise (Goperus polyphemus) wondering around the center. It was being followed by a group of guests; one of whom wanted to pet it (even though this is not advised).
Gopher Tortoise (Goperus polyphemus) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.  Savannah  GA
Gopher Tortoise (Goperus polyphemus) at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Savannah, GA
The Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah is located "less than 5 miles from Savannah's historic district off of Islands Expressway (President Street)." It is open 361 days a year and the admission prices are quite affordable. For more information, visit the center's website or call (912) 395-1212.
More about Oatland Island Wildlife Center, Animals, Wildlife, birds of prey, Eagle
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