Native black bears often visit us at Applewood Manor. If one of our wildlife neighbors stops by on your visit, remember to watch from a safe distance. If you haven’t had that pleasure yet, and want to visit up close with one of our friends or other of the native species of animals in our mountains, the Western North Carolina Nature Center is only a little over six miles from Applewood. The 42 acre wildlife park is home to over 60 species of wildlife that live or have lived in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Most of the animals have been permanently injured or have been imprinted, meaning they have no fear of humans and never learned the skills they would need to survive in the wild. Others have never known a life in the wild at all or are endangered species that are part of a breeding program to ensure that we have a sustained population of endangered animals and can conserve them for future generations. The Center provides you with the opportunity to learn about the natural history of each species and the unique biographies of the wildlife that call the Nature Center home.
American black bears, despite their name, are often brown, tan, or even white. While generally shy and reclusive animals, they are quite innovative, and like humans they eat both plant and animal food. In the wild, they forage for grasses, fish, berries, fruits, nuts, insects, small rodents, birds, and eggs. Their intelligence, however, makes “bear-proofing” a serious task for local homeowners who often unwillingly share their garbage, pet food and even bird food with their black bear neighbors. Two of our bears, Uno and Ursa, live at the Nature Center:
- Uno was wild-born in January, 2004, but he was removed from the wild at a young age for unknown reasons. Because he had imprinted on humans, he cannot be returned to the wild. Uno likes to play in his pool, run around his habitat or climb its structures and trees.
- Ursa was born in 2001 and, like Uno, was removed without learning survival skills. She was named for the Ursa Major family of star constellations, which is Latin for great bear. Ursa keeps her distance from Uno during the summer, but the two share a den together in the winter.
Some of the other creatures you will have the chance to see up close include the endangered American red wolf, river otters, Angora Goats , the Barn Owl, a Black Rat Snake, the elusive bobcat, corn Snakes, Cotswold Sheep, a cougar, the Eastern Box Turtle (the state reptile), a coyote, an Eastern Screech-Owl, a gray fox, gray wolf, Great Horned Owl, the Least Weasel, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Oberhasli Goats, a red panda, red-tailed hawks, donkeys, Elvis the Skunk, rattlesnakes, turkey vultures, white-tailed deer and more—including Meatloaf, the Hellbender. Hellbenders Grow up to 2 feet long and are the world’s third largest salamander.
The Nature Center is open 7 days a week, 10 AM-3:30 PM except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $10.95/adults $9.95/seniors and $6.95 for children thirteen or younger. It is located at 75 Gashes Creek Rd less than a fifteen minute drive from Applewood Manor.