Chaukar is a Laggar falcon (Falco jugger), a species native to East India and as such is not releasable here in Ontario, where Salthaven is located. Laggar falcons are listed as near threatened species in their native range due to pesticide use, habitat destruction, and trapping intended for the related Saker falcon. Chaukar escaped his first owner, a falconer, with his leash still attached to him. When he landed in a tree, the leash wrapped around a branch and held him captive long enough that he was severely dehydrated and emaciated by the time he arrived at Salthaven needing help. His condition was touch and go for a while. The little but mighty Chaukar eventually pulled through, and after training he now bears the title of Salthaven Wildlife Ambassador.
Gus the Gray Rat Snake
Gus is a gray rat snake (Pantherophis spiloides), also known as a midlands rat snake, which is the largest snake in Canada with the potential to grow to up to 2.5 metres in length. Although grey rat snakes are native to Ontario, they have disappeared from most of their historic ranges and are listed as an endangered species. Our Gus was born in captivity in British Columbia, and as such is non-releasable. His status as a member of a species at risk in Ontario (combined with his dashing good looks) makes Gus an important Salthaven Wildlife Ambassador to highlight the importance of species conservation and the fascinating lives of wild Canadian reptiles.
Mihko Shikoba is a young red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), one of the most common hawks in North America. She didn’t get her namesake red tail until her first molt in 2011. Her name means “red feather”in Miami-Illinois (a Native American Algonquian language). Shikoba was raised in captivity before her arrival at Salthaven, and so is a non-releasable bird, despite her species being native to Ontario. Shikoba, like other red-tails, has range of vocalizations including the characteristic rasping scream that is often used to dub over the perhaps less intimidating sounds of other birds of prey. Shikoba’s impressive wing span, wide eyes, and sharp talons are some of the stunning adaptations hawks have developed for flight and predation, and are amazing to see up close when she makes an outing as a Salthaven Wildlife Ambassador.
Spirit the Bald Eagle
Spirit is a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), one of the most beautiful and recognizable birds of prey. Spirit’s story of how he arrived at Salthaven also explains why he is not releasable, and has taken up the title of Salthaven Wildlife Ambassador. Spirit was found as a young juvenile (he still didn’t have his white feathers yet) on the forest floor by a pair of hikers, quite emaciated and with a badly broken wing. Brought to Salthaven, it was determined by the team that his wing was in such bad shape, it would need to be removed. Spirit has made a remarkable recovery due to the time and effort dedicated by many people.
Bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery in Ontario, with their species at risk status being upgraded from endangered to a species of concern. Like the story of his species, Spirit’s recovery gives us hope for Canadian wildlife.