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Wild Tales: Animals Who Call CIA Headquarters Home

October 3, 2023

CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is known as the home to one of the world’s top spy agencies. You might be surprised to learn, however, that our campus has also become a sanctuary of sorts to feathered, scaled, and furry critters of all kinds.

CIA Headquarters sits on a large, beautiful landscape full of wildflowers, trees, and even a pond. It’s a perfect sanctuary for wildlife to escape the noisy bustle of the city and to feel safe. Wild animals frequently roam around the campus, some for only short visits, while others have decided to call our campus home. Some of these critters have become so well-known around CIA Headquarters that the employees have given them names!

Our officers delight in spotting wildlife throughout the year. Being able to go outside and take a few moments to pause and watch the wildlife is a gift we cherish

In addition to wildlife, sometimes domestic animals have mysteriously made their way onto campus and have been rescued by thoughtful employees. It should go without saying, but you never know what you’ll encounter at CIA! If you’re curious about some of our most beloved or unusual animal visitors from over the years, you’re in luck. We hope you enjoy these “wild” tales from CIA’s Headquarters!

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The Misadventures of Mischief the Fox

What does the fox say? Ours doesn't talk. After all, when you're a CIA fox, you're part of the silent service. <wink>

One of the most famous animals that calls CIA Headquarters home is Mischief the red fox. He’s been hanging out on CIA’s campus for several years now to the delight of Agency officers. He’s been spotted all over campus, from the Memorial Pond to the cafeteria to the hills near the old Scattergood house. Several times a year, CIA’s photographers get lucky enough to snap a photo of Mischief while he’s up to his usual shenanigans. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Mischief roaming the rocks above CIA’s Memorial Garden. No koi were harmed in the encounter.

Mischief taking a nap near CIA’s cafeteria.

The Disappearing Deer of Langley

Mischief isn’t the only visitor to use stealthy nature skills to wander CIA’s campus undetected. Here’s a photograph depicting our resident deer on a mission for food under the cover of night. Like all good CIA officers, they completed their task and disappeared without a trace.

Two stealthy deer enjoying a midnight snack at CIA.

The Curious Case of the Galivanting Guinea Pig

Our eagle-eyed employees have encountered many animals while walking around CIA Headquarters. Usually, the cute little unauthorized visitors are snakes, squirrels or even the occasional racoon. However, sometimes they come across a rather unexpected intruder. On more than one occasion, we’ve discovered tiny kittens romping around (which are always adopted by adoring CIA employees), but perhaps the most unusual case involves the guinea pig in the parking garage.

Cold, hungry, and scared, a furry little critter sought cover under a vehicle on the top deck of our Headquarters’ parking garage as darkness fell across a wintery Virginia. Two CIA officers were on an evening run when they spotted the tiny furball who was covered in dust, his little eyes peeking out from under the car. Upon closer inspection, they realized he was a guinea pig! How he got there was a total mystery.

Jimmy the guinea pig after being rescued from our parking garage.

The officers coaxed the little guinea pig into a box with a morsel of Cliff Bar. One of the officers took him home, where he enjoyed a warm bath, fluffy blanket, and plenty of water, food, and timothy hay. They decided to name him “Jimmy.”

Messages were sent out around CIA to try and find Jimmy’s owner, but no luck. Just in time for the holidays, however, an Agency officer who already had one guinea pig adopted Jimmy!

Jimmy and his new big brother getting into the holiday spirit.

According to his adoptive family, Jimmy has a feisty, energetic personality and he loves his new big brother. Jimmy’s favorite snacks are parsley, bell peppers, and cucumbers; tomatoes get a definite thumbs-down! Both guinea pigs love to run around (aka “zoomies”) and when they’re tired, they like to cuddle in a cozy fleece blanket on their owners’ laps. Jimmy is spoiled and living his best life with all the fresh veggies he can eat and loves getting pets every night from his adoring owners.

The Daring Adventure of Donnie the Vulture

While some animals wander onto CIA’s campus on their own, other times they are brought in by well-meaning officers.

On the way to work one soggy spring morning, a CIA officer passed by an injured vulture on the side of the road. The vulture had been hit by a car and clearly needed veterinary treatment. The officer stopped, wrapped the vulture in her coat, and placed him in the back of the car. She named him “Donnie” after the legendary William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who ran CIA’s World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services.

Donnie’s vulture friends hanging out near where he was found by a CIA officer after he was hit by a car.

Donnie the vulture spent the morning at CIA Headquarters, while the officer and her colleagues called various rescues and wildlife rehabilitation facilities to see if anyone in the region would assist an injured vulture. No luck. Finally, they were given a lead for a little-known rescuer who specialized in vultures, and she agreed to take Donnie! The rescuer contacted a veterinarian she knew and arranged for Donnie to get a checkup to evaluate his injuries.

Donnie resting in box in a quiet corner at CIA Headquarters, while awaiting a ride to the vet.

The officer transported Donnie to the vet, who X-rayed his wings and determined he was bruised and sore but luckily had no broken bones. The vet said he would likely make a full recovery after a few weeks of care—a vulture vacation, if you will. Donnie the vulture did fully heal and is now living his life free as… well, a bird.

Toil and Trouble, A Blue Heron on the Bubble

On a warm summer day in June, CIA officers were surprised to find a Blue Heron chilling on the CIA Headquarters auditorium, which we call “The Bubble” because of its unique shape and design. One of our intrepid photographers snapped this photo of the majestic visitor. The large fowl alternated between stalking prey around the koi pond and taking in the view on top of the auditorium.

Blue Heron keeping watch from the top of “The Bubble.”

Something Fishy Going On at CIA Headquarters

Koi in the Memorial Garden at CIA Headquarters.

You can’t tell the tales of CIA’s resident animal friends without a visit to our beloved koi.

CIA’s Memorial Garden—a tribute to all deceased intelligence officers and contractors who served our country—is home to a tranquil koi pond.

The garden is a blend of natural and landscaped flowers and other plants living amid stone outcroppings from which a cascade of water continuously falls into a large pond, providing a calm and reflective place for Agency employees. Koi fish in shades of gold, pearl, and coral swim peacefully beneath the waters. The words, “In remembrance of those whose unheralded efforts served a grateful nation,” are cast in a brass plaque set in fieldstone to ensure the living will not forget the fallen.

CIA Memorial Garden at sunset.

While the garden is maintained by landscapers, the koi are cared for by a professional fishpond expert. He visits weekly to test the water quality, care for the plants that grow in and around the ponds, visually inspect the fish for illness and injury, add food to the automatic feeder, and less often, clean the ponds. The koi enjoy “top tier food” (only the best for CIA spy fish!), which is dispensed twice-a-day from an automatic feeder concealed by a fake rock.

All this great care and feeding means that our koi live long, full lives—around 20-35 years! A very respectable Agency career indeed.


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