Where the Wild Things Are

The Winnie Carter Wildlife Center provides a unique place for Aggies to learn and for exotic animals to find a forever home.

    By Tiarra Drisker ’25
  • Photo by Zachary Scott
  • May. 15, 2023
    4 min read

An ostrich runs through tall grass, gazing out into the distance. A serval climbs a tree and awaits its dinner of fresh meat. A camel grazes lazily on grass, occasionally licking its lips between chewing. These natural scenes play out not in the wild or at a zoo but at the Winnie Carter Wildlife Center on Texas A&M University’s West Campus. The center is a conveniently accessible teaching facility where students can care for, learn about and work with animals such as big cats, elk, kangaroos and many more exotic residents, many of which are rescues.

The center’s director, Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon ’85 ’87 ’89, sits in her office among scores of decorative tusks and animal teeth during the little time she has between helping students and maintaining the facility. “Are they bringing the meat?” she asks a student as she feeds two squawking parrots. “Yes, and I’m going to break down a 30-pound turkey later today,” yells Berkley Wood ’23, a staff member and animal science major, from across the office.

“There is no normal day when you’re dealing with a group of animals and about 80 students out here at the center,” Blue-McLendon explained.

When undergraduate students enroll in Blue-McLendon’s Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology directed studies course, they sign up for an experience they’ll never forget. Their daily routine starts at 8 a.m. with measuring food for the animals and guiding them into different enclosures. They then divide into teams to check on the animals, refill water receptacles, run a headcount and deliver food. During this time, students also look for any abnormalities or potential health issues to report to Blue-McLendon.

The real work comes after the morning routine, though. Students assigned to habitat duty focus on maintaining their designated enclosures. This might include cleaning water bowls, killing ants or picking weeds. “There are 13 acres and outbuildings,” Blue-McLendon noted. “There’s always something to do.”

“There is no normal day when you’re dealing with a group of animals and about 80 students out here at the center."
- Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon ’85 ’87 ’89

Wood has been at the center since summer 2021. Hailing from West Texas, she was raised around animals, but only livestock. She started as a student enrolled in Blue-McLendon’s class but grew to love the center and its animals so much that she continued to volunteer and now serves as a staff member.

“Learning more of the medical aspects of working with exotic animals as well as animal nutrition and facts about all the different species was such a unique experience,” Wood shared. “I had never been around birds before and definitely not large, flightless ones like our emus and ostriches. As a student, my assigned enclosure was for our ostrich, Jack, which was super cool. I didn’t realize how much of a personality ostriches had. I never thought I could be friends with a bird!”

Wood serves as an assistant technician; her primary role is helping run the program and caring for the large cats, but she also helps students with projects and their enclosures. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in animal science.

Students like Wood will continue to grow their passion for animals through the center. For this very reason, Blue-McLendon has big goals for the center’s future. From improving medical care for its residents to stocking basic items like heating pads, she said the center can continue to grow and teach students.

“If we had additional funding, we could really enhance our animal habitats,” Blue-McLendon added. “We also have some fences that are about 30 years old and need to be replaced. We dream of building additional habitats, but those would take capital funds.”

Still, she always appreciates teaching her students invaluable skills and lessons they can take with them throughout their lives and careers.

“My favorite part of being at the center is working with young, smart, enthusiastic, goal-oriented people. Whether it’s in the classroom or out here at the center, that’s always the best thing.”

Impact Aggieland’s Animals

A gift to the Wildlife Center will help provide supplies and habitat updates to ensure its animals and student caretakers continue to thrive.

Choose your level of support:


To make a physical donation to the wildlife center, donate items on their wish list.

More Like This

Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences