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West Virginia State Wildlife Center
Zoological park
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
County Upshur
Elevation 1,745 ft (531.9 m) [1]
Coordinates 38°51′19″N 80°18′41″W / 38.85528°N 80.31139°W / 38.85528; -80.31139
Area 338 acres (136.8 ha) [2]
Owner West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section
Nearest city Buckhannon, West Virginia
Location of West Virginia State Wildlife Center in West Virginia
Website: West Virginia State Wildlife Center

The 'West Virginia State Wildlife Center is a zoological park in French Creek, West Virginia. Operated by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the Wildlife Center displays many of West Virginia's wildlife, including both native and introduced species.[3] A few of the animals at the Wildlife Center were once found naturally in West Virginia, but were extirpated by the early 1900s.[2]

Today, the Wildlife Center comprises 338 acres (137 ha) and currently displays 29 different species of West Virginia mammals, birds, and reptiles, which are located along a 1.25-mile (2.01 km) long trail through a mature hardwood forest.[2][3] The animal exhibits are simply large chain-link enclosures within an actual West Virginian forest, which allows the animals to interract with the environment and behave in more natural ways than one would see in most other zoos that attempt to recreate the environment.[3] The Wildlife Center receives about 50,000 visitors per year.[3]

Contents

History

By the early 1900s, many of West Virginia's major fauna were either extirpated or hunted dangerously close to extirpation. By 1911, many of the state's most common large mammals, such as elk, bison, wolves, and mountain lions, had been completely extirpated. Even animals that are common in the state today, such as the white-tailed deer and black bear, were nearly wiped out by uncontrolled hunting. Growing concerns for West Virginia's wildlife led the state's government to create the French Creek Game Farm in 1923, where native West Virginian wildlife could be bred and reintroduced back into the wild.[2] Eventually, ecologists learned that animals bred in captivity lack the instincts that are necessary to survive in the wild, and so the reintroduction projects were discontinued, but the Game Farm remained open as a popular tourist attraction.[2] The Game Farm was so popular because it allowed people to see animals that no longer existed in the state, and also because many of the animals displayed at the Game Farm are too elusive to be commonly seen in the wild, even though several of them sometimes live near people's houses.

In 1986, the French Creek Game Farm was renamed the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.[3] Today, the Wildlife Center serves to educate visitors about West Virginia's wildlife of the past and present and about the history of wildlife conservation. Future projects include an educational center, an auditorium, a nocturnal animal exhibit, reptile exhibits, aquatic mammal exhibits, an aviary, and an aquarium.[3]

Animals on display

Location

The West Virginia Wildlife Center is located about 12 miles south of Buckhannon on WV 20, at the intersection of WV 20 and Alexander Road, also known to some locally as "the Game Farm road," referencing the previous name of the facility. To reach the Wildlife Center, take WV 20 from Buckhannon (or from the south, from Flatwoods, at I-79 Exit 67), then turn onto Alexander Road. The entrance will be on the right after about 1/4 mile.

References

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