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Annual Animal Enrichment Day Set for Wed. August 3 at Grandfather Mountain

Aspen, a Western mountain lion, enjoys his new Jolly Egg, donated through Grandfather Mountain’s habitat animal wish list on Amazon.com. Photo by Emma Noto

How do you keep an animal entertained?

You otter come find out at Grandfather Mountain’s Animal Enrichment Day on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

The special event highlights animal enrichment and its importance in caring for the creatures who live in the environmental wildlife habitats at Grandfather Mountain.

An enrichment is a special treat, new toy or unfamiliar scent to break up the animals’ routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated. Visitors to Grandfather are encouraged to view these enrichments through naturalist-led animal encounters, held daily spring through fall, as they provide a great opportunity to see each animal active, up close and personal.

Visitors will see special enrichments in each habitat and even get to participate in some interactive games and activities related to caring for the mountain’s furry and feathered friends. These special activities are included with the price of admission.

Between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. outside of the Fudge Shop, guests can join in games, visit interactive stations (based on the animals’ different senses) and enter a raffle. Raffle prizes will include artwork painted by Grandfather Mountain’s own animals, Adopt-an-Animal boxes and a Behind-the-Scenes Tour. All proceeds from the raffle will go toward purchasing future animal enrichments. The drawing will be held at 2 p.m., and the winner must be present to claim their prize.

Additionally, kids can take a little bit of Enrichment Day home with them by creating enrichments for their pets, based on the programs here at Grandfather Mountain. This enables them to not only treat their special friends, but to also nurture a love of nature and an increased understanding of how to care for it.

At 11 a.m., guests are invited to a special enrichment program in the Nature Museum Auditorium, where they can learn the basics of animal enrichment and why it is an integral part of everyday life at Grandfather Mountain.

At 1 p.m., kids are invited to help make special enrichments for the bears and deer, and at 2:30 p.m., can see their special creations presented to the animals.

Additionally, visitors will get to vote on which special enrichment Aspen, a Western mountain lion, will receive.

Kids can also play a special game against a one-of-a-kind team: the river otters. The otters will forage their habitat for treats, while their human competitors will be foraging for treats of their own. Whoever finds all the treats first wins!

Assistant habitats curator Emma Noto said Animal Enrichment Day will be the first of its kind at Grandfather Mountain.

“Animal enrichment is the most important program in the animal habitats, and we are excited for our first event at Grandfather Mountain dedicated to teaching people about it,” Noto said. “Enrichment provides a more stimulating environment for the animals and helps them exhibit their natural behaviors by foraging, manipulating objects, playing or simply moving around.”

The day’s activities will occur in and around the Nature Museum and habitats from 10:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m. The events, games and activities are sure to inspire a love for the natural world and the creatures who call it home, Noto said.

As for the animals?

They’re so excited they can bearly stand it.

Year-round Enrichment

Grandfather Mountain offers numerous ways friends of the mountain can contribute to the animals and their wellbeing.

The nonprofit park has an Amazon.com wish list, listing toys and supplies that are appropriate for the Grandfather Mountain habitat animals. Donors can choose a gift for their favorite animal, purchase it online and have it delivered straight to Grandfather Mountain for their immediate enjoyment. The list of suggested items is available at http://bit.ly/GMAmazonWishlist.

Animal lovers also can contribute through the Grandfather Mountain Adopt-an-Animal Program. Honorary adopters receive a photo of their animal, certificate of adoption, informational sheet about the animal’s life and additional items at higher donation levels, including a plush animal, cast of an animal footprint, day pass to Grandfather Mountain or behind-the-scenes visits with the adopted animal. Adoption levels range from $25 to $300, and more information is available online at http://bit.ly/1O5deat.

The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or plan a trip at www.grandfather.com.