If you like animals and are looking for a fun way to spend your weekend, try visiting the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville.
With over 40 acres of Southern Appalachian habitat and over 60 species of animals, the WNC Nature Center is sure to both entertain and educate. It houses all sorts of native plants and animals and hopes to promote public understanding and appreciation of Appalachian biodiversity.
Among the Nature Center’s most popular award-winning exhibits are the otters, Obi-Wan and Ollie.
“For one, they’re the first animal you see when you come in,” said Curator of Exhibits Jesse Paden. “Plus people think they’re cute. They swim around and do cute things and interact with the audience. If you could imagine, they’re like dogs that swim. They’re very playful and outgoing.”
Other popular exhibits include the black bears, bobcats, and red wolves, which are an endangered species.
“It’s hard to say which is my favorite exhibit, “said Paden, “but the animals I am most impressed with are our cougars. They’re incredible animals. They’re very strong and very quiet. But they aren’t scary-not when you’re on the other side of the fence, anyway.”
The Nature Center received their two cougars, Pisgah and Mitchell, back in Oct. 2011 from the Oregon Zoo.
The Nature Center is also home to species such as the least weasel, which is the smallest living carnivore, the Nigerian dwarf goat, and turkey vultures, whose wingspan can reach up to six feet.
Junior Amanda Herbin, a Teaching Fellow majoring in social sciences education, said, “You can walk around and learn about different animals and their natural environment. It is so much more than just seeing cute animals. You can see how they interact with nature and other species. And all this can be done while spending time with your friends and family on a beautiful and sunny spring day.”
Paden added, “The unique thing about us is that we showcase native plants and animals of the southern Appalachian region. If you want to learn more about the ecology of this area, we’re a great place to visit. We offer educational opportunities in that regard too.”
For example visitors can register for wildlife rehabilitation workshops, which are designed to educate people about caring for orphaned or injured small mammals, birds and reptiles. Classes and activities are also offered for children as young as three-years-old.
“Visiting is just a good way to spend your day,” said Help Desk Assistant Alice Gillespie. “It’s fun, and you learn so much about the animals and plants.”
The WNC Nature Center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children between three and 15 years of age. For souvenirs, the gift shop is open during the Nature Center’s normal work hours.
If you would like more information about visiting, volunteering, or donating to the WNC Nature Center, you can find out more at www.wncnaturecenter.com or contact them at (828) 259-8080.