red rat snake (corn snake) at Ijams Nature Center

Animal Ambassadors

Ijams Nature Center is home to more than 40 non-releasable animals who are here due to injury, illness, or human intervention. They cannot survive in the wild, so they live here and share their stories to help Ijams educators teach visitors of all ages about the impact humans can have on native animal species.

The Wild Staff of Ijams

The wild staff at Ijams helps visitors and program attendees learn about the world around them. The human staff selects these team members carefully and ensures that they receive care and enrichment (activities to keep animals engaged) while they live at the nature center. Ijams also partners with the veterinarians of The University of Tennessee-Knoxville School of Veterinary Medicine to keep these animals healthy.

You can visit some of Ijams' animal ambassadors during regular business hours in the outdoor raptor enclosure or in the Visitor Center exhibit hall; make a new connection with Tennessee's local wildlife!

While Ijams has wild educators, the staff cannot accept or treat abandoned or injured wildlife, but there are people who do. Watch the Wild Animal Protocol video or read the Wild Animal Frequently Asked Questions so you know what to do if you find an animal that might need assistance.

Adopt an Animal!

It costs more than $20,000 annually to care for all of Ijams’ animals. When you donate to adopt an animal, you’ll help feed and shelter your new friend, provide enrichment activities to keep them engaged, and cover veterinary care to help them stay happy and healthy for one year. Your tax-deductible gift will make a difference! Adopt an Animal Now

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Request a Tour

Are you an Ijams member?

Behind-the-Scenes Animal Tours

Behind-the-Scenes Animal Tours at Ijams provide a more intimate, up-close experience with ambassador animals. Guests will spend one hour with the animal care coordinator, meeting the animals and learning about their individual stories and their care.

The cost for a tour is $125; up to four may attend. 

Fill out the request form to schedule your tour today!

Meet the Animals

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Barred Owl

(Strix varia)

Stay-Puft, a male barred owl, joined Ijams in 2015 at about age 3. He was found with injuries consistent with being hit by a car. He has some blindness, making him non-releasable. He got his name because he always has his feathers puffed out. He loves to walk the trails with his keeper. 

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Red-Tailed Hawk

(Buteo jamaicensis)

Tiger is a female red-tailed hawk. She was found in Sevier County with physical and neurological injuries that make her non-releasable. She came to Ijams in 2005 at about age 3. Tiger can be seen (and often heard) in the raptor enclosure by the main parking lot.

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Gray Rat Snake

(Pantherophis spiloides)

Gramps, a male gray rat snake, has lived at Ijams since 1989; staff changed his name to Gramps in 2018! Like wild snakes, Gramps enjoys climbing and spending time in his log, and has taught countless visitors how gentle and helpful his species is to humans.

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Gray Rat Snake (Albino)

(Pantherophis spiloides)

Lucius is an albino gray rat snake. Albinism is a genetic abnormality that results in missing pigments, as well as other challenges such as poor eyesight. Lucius was found in a local basement and found his way to Ijams in 2013 at the age of 3.

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Eastern Screech Owl

(Megascops asio)

Jack is a male red phase eastern screech owl who was hit by a car and joined Ijams in 2022. He broke his wing and will never recover well enough to fly, but otherwise is completely healthy! There are two phases of screech owls, red (reddish brown, or rufous) and gray.

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Eastern Screech Owl

(Megascops asio)

Stevie is a female red phase eastern screech owl who joined Ijams in 2020 after being hit by a car. Stevie has a split pupil so she can’t gauge distances. There are two phases of screech owls, red (reddish brown, or rufous) and gray.

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Turkey Vulture

(Cathartes aura)

Zoe is a female turkey vulture. She was found on the roadside when she was very young and imprinted on humans, meaning she bonded with and identified with people, instead of identifying as a vulture. She joined Ijams in 2005, when she was 7 years old. She is very smart and curious.

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Corn Snake
(Red Rat Snake)

(Pantherophis guttatus)

Cora is a female corn snake. She was captive-bred in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Because she was raised in captivity, she lacks many of the skills and instincts that are necessary for her to survive in the wild. She was surrendered to Ijams in 2011 at the age of 1.

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Northern Map Turtle

(Graptemys geographica)

Nemo is a male northern map turtle. He was found as a hatchling in 2010 at Ijams. Nemo was born without part of his front right leg, which would make it difficult to survive in the wild, but it doesn't stop him from swimming and greeting visitors!

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Virginia Opossum

(Didelphis virginiana)

Opal, a female Virginia Opossum, joined Ijams at 13 weeks old in 2019. This little orphan was found after her mother and siblings were killed by a car. She loves riding around on a staff member's shoulder and is passionate about grapes.

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Red Eared Slider

(Trachemys scripta elegans)

Bella is a female red eared slider. This species got its name due to the beautiful, bright red, orange or (rarely) yellow stripe they have running down the side of their head behind each eye.

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Common Snapping Turtle

(Chelydra serpentina)

Shellene is a female common snapping turtle who was found at Ijams. Her left eye is cloudy, which indicates that she is blind in that eye. Shellene loves mice and cantaloupe.

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Virginia Opossum

(Didelphis virginiana)

Norman Nubs is a male Virginia opossum who joined Ijams in 2021 when he was around five months old. He was orphaned as a baby and had been living with a local rehabilitator. He lost most of his tail and kept falling, so he couldn’t be released.

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Chilean Rose-Haired Tarantula

(Grammostola rosea)

Rosie is a Chilean rose-haired tarantula. This species, which is also called the Chilean rose tarantula, can live up to 20 years in captivity. She was given to Ijams in 2006.

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Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

(Gromphadorhina portentosa)

Helena is a female Madagascar hissing cockroach. As one of the largest species of roaches, she educates children about the anatomy of insects. Plus, she hisses!