This August is for the birds.
And the bears. And the otters. And the cougars.
Animal Enrichment Day returns Wednesday, Aug. 2, promising a day full of fun and educational activities, all about the furry and feathered denizens of Grandfather Mountain’s environmental wildlife habitats.
The special event highlights animal enrichment and its importance in caring for the animals that call Grandfather home.
An enrichment is a special treat, new toy or unfamiliar scent that breaks up the animals’ routines and helps keep them active and intellectually stimulated. The habitat residents are given enrichments multiple times daily, and park guests are encouraged to watch through naturalist-led animal encounters. Encounters are held daily, spring through fall, and they provide an ideal opportunity to see each animal active, up close and personal.
For Animal Enrichment Day, guests will see special enrichments in each habitat and even get to participate in some interactive games and activities related to caring for the animals. These special activities are all 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, with such prizes as a Keeper for the Day pass and artwork painted by the animals themselves. All proceeds will go toward purchasing future enrichments. The drawing will be held at 2 p.m., and the winner must be present to claim his or her prize.
Additionally, kids can take home a special souvenir by creating enrichments for their pets, based on the programs 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, at 2:30 p.m., they can see their special creations presented to the animals.
Additionally, visitors will get to vote on which special enrichment Aspen, a Western cougar, 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!
“Animal enrichment is the most important program in the animal habitats, and we are excited to teach people about it,” said Emma Noto, assistant habitats curator for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Linville, N.C., nature preserve and attraction. “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.
Grandfather Mountain offers numerous ways to contribute to the animals and their well-being.
The nonprofit park has an Amazon.com wish list, listing toys and supplies that are appropriate for the habitat animals. Donors can choose a gift for their favorite animal, purchase it online and have it delivered straight to the 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 their animal. Adoption levels range from $25 to $300, and more information is available online at https://grandfather.com/preser
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.
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