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 very 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.

Visit Ijams' animal ambassadors during regular business hours - either in the outdoor raptor enclosure or in the Visitor Center exhibit hall - and make a new connection with Tennessee's local wildlife. Ijams offers FREE Animal Encounters on Saturdays at 10 am and 1 pm.

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.

Behind-the-Scenes Animal Tours

The Behind-the-Scenes Animal Tours at Ijams provide a more intimate, up-close experience with the ambassador animals who call Ijams home. 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. 


PLEASE NOTE: Per CDC guidelines, masks will be required for all participants during the length of this program. 

Fill out the request form to schedule your tour today!

  Request a Behind-the-Scenes Tour

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Meet the Animals

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. 


Barred Owl

Strix varia

Spitfire is a female American kestrel. She earned her name by being very vocal, opinionated, and feisty. She was found, flightless, outside of Nashville. Her injured wing makes her non-releasable. Spitfire has been at Ijams since 2011.


American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

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.


Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

Li'l Red is a female Eastern screech owl. This species is found in two color phases: red and gray. She received her name because she is a red phase screech owl. She came to Ijams in 2011 from Clinch River Raptor Center with permanent wing injuries and is in liver failure due to old age.

Li'l Red

Eastern Screech Owl

Megascops asio

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.


Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Harley is a gray phase screech owl. Her vet records at UT listed her as male, which was proven incorrect in 2019 when she laid an egg! She is missing her left eye as a result of injuries sustained in a vehicle collision. She joined Ijams in 2011 from American Eagle Foundation.


Eastern Screech Owl

Megascops asio

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 Nature Center in 2011 at the age of 1.


Corn Snake
(Red Rat Snake)

Pantherophis guttatus

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 Nature Center in 2013 at the age of 3


Gray Rat Snake (Albino)

(Pantherophis spiloides)

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


Gray Rat Snake

(Pantherophis spiloides)