Visitors to the Critters Encounters display at the Kahoots Feed and Pet Store in Ramona got a close look at animals that are usually only seen in the wild.
Andrea Burgan, a former zookeeper, animal trainer and teacher at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, showed off a Tegu lizard, red-tailed hawk, Fennec fox, great horned owl and chinchilla to around 50 adults and children outside the store.
Make-up artist Linda Sinnachcharige was available to paint animals on the children’s faces.
Burgan runs his Critter Encounters animal sanctuary in Ramona with nearly 30 types of exotic animals.
Some of the animals she brought to the presentation were rescued from Project Wildlife, a Ramona sanctuary that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured wildlife. When an animal cannot be released because it is too tame or cannot survive on its own, Project Wildlife sometimes offers Burgan the opportunity to care for it.
One of these animals is a red-tailed hawk named Ruby. Burgan said someone fed Ruby when she was a baby and the bird became too comfortable with humans, making it unsafe for her to live in the wild.
Burgan also brought along a Tegu lizard named Titus, which lost part of its tail due to infection. The tail pushes back.
“His nose is on the roof of his mouth,” Burgan told the audience. “He’ll stick his tongue out and literally collect dust particles and odors and then stick his tongue up his nose.”
It also showed Forrest, a great horned owl who was injured when he fell from his nest as a baby. Forrest cannot grasp his prey and gets confused easily, so Burgan feeds him every day. Great horned owls have two eyelids over each eye and the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees, she said.
Burgan introduced the crowd to Finley, a Fennec fox that is illegal to own without a license, and shared an ultra-soft chinchilla named Rufus. While humans have one hair in each follicle, Burgan said chinchillas have around 60 hairs in each follicle.
Critter Encounters is open for private tours and offers class/assembly programs, birthday parties, and Scout badges. For more information, call 619-985-2415.