Gus came to the Wildlife Center in April 1994 as a very young owlet. Shortly after hatching, she was found alone and on the ground near Mechanicsville, Virginia, presumably after falling from her nest tree. Her rescuers brought her to their home, intending to keep the young owl as a pet; like many people, they were unaware that it is illegal to keep wild animals in captivity. After several weeks, Gus was discovered by neighbors and removed from the household by the local police, who arranged for transport to the Wildlife Center. Our veterinary staff determined that the constant attention Gus had received from her initial rescuers had left her imprinted on humans. Caretakers must go to great lengths to avoid imprinting young birds, and Gus’s initial rescuers were unaware of this fact. Her imprinted status leaves her unsuitable for release back into the wild.
Previously thought to be a male, Gus’s original full name was “Gustavo”. In early 2013, the Wildlife Center had the opportunity to test Gus’s DNA; results confirmed that Gustavo is actually a female! After 18 years, the staff couldn’t possibly change the owl’s name, so it’s simply been shortened to “Gus”.