He also introduced me to some of his charges, including Stickley the porcupine. Stickley had been found by a dog when she was a baby and was separated from her mother. So, she was brought to the Wild Center, where she was bottle-fed. Gross recalled the soft sounds that she would make as a baby.
“Porcupines tend to wander about mumbling to themselves; they’re cute that way,” he said.
The initial plan was to rehabilitate and release Stickley, but since many people shoot porcupines, seeing them as pests, it was decided to keep her in the safety of the Wild Center. Gross pushed back Stickley’s lips to reveal her bright orange teeth. He said that since a porcupine’s teeth continue to grow throughout its life, the animal will chew on wood in order to keep the growth in check.
He pointed to a tree in Stickley’s enclosure that was almost devoid of bark.
“She’s chewed off all the bark, so we’re going to switch it with a new one,” he said.
Gross also pointed out one of the center’s two skunks, “Night,” which has a black tail. This makes it easy to distinguish “Night” from “Day,” the other skunk, which has a white tail.
An array of birds grace the Wild Center, including a male kestrel named Squawkbox (so named for his loud calls), a female blue jay aptly named Lady Jay, a saw whet owl with golden eyes and a pair of red-tailed hawks.
A pair of ravens — perhaps the most intelligent of all birds, Gross said, showed off some of their vocal abilities.
“Ravens have over 50 different types of calls. One sounds to me like a rotary phone being dialed. They can also bark like a dog, imitate other bird calls and pick up human speech.