Grandfather Mountain celebrates its furry and feathered inhabitants this Wednesday, Aug. 1, for the park’s annual Animal Enrichment Day.
The special day promises a schedule full of fun and educational activities, all about the residents of the Linville, N.C., nature park’s environmental wildlife habitats.
Specifically, the day highlights animal enrichment and its importance in caring for the animals that call Grandfather Mountain 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 staff-led animal encounters, which are held daily, spring through fall, and provide an ideal opportunity to see each animal active, up close and personal.
For Animal Enrichment Day, guests will get to see special enrichments in each habitat and even 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 Nature Museum (inside in case of rain), guests can join in games, visit interactive stations (based on the animals’ different senses) and compete in some trivia, with the grand prize being a behind-the-scenes visit with the animal associated with each question.
At 11 a.m., guests of all ages can attend a program in the Nature Museum Auditorium to learn the basics of animal enrichment. They can put their newfound know-how to use at 1 p.m., when participants will visit the Let-It-Rain Picnic Shelter to make special enrichments for the bears and other animals.
Kids can even 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 also nurture a love of nature and an increased understanding of how to care for it.
At 2 p.m., the trivia winners will be announced inside the Nature Museum, and the behind-the-scenes tour will follow immediately after.
Lastly, at 2:30 p.m., guests can visit the environmental wildlife habitats to watch the animals receive their special enrichment, starting with a very special competition, wherein kids can 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!
“Enrichment is such a big part of what we do for the quality of life of our animals that not that many people are aware of,” habitat keeper Jenny May Condron said. “Animal Enrichment Day is such a good and fun way to bring our guests into the day-to-day experience of how we make our animals’ lives the best they can be while in our care.”
Grandfather Mountain offers numerous ways to contribute to the animals and their well-being.
The nonprofit park has an Amazon.com wish list, featuring 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, such as 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/preserving-protecting/adopt-an-animal/.
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.