With its BEAR hands, of course.
But don't take our word for it. See for yourselves at Grandfather Mountain's Animal Birthday Party on Wednesday, June 15.
The annual celebration includes a full day of special events designed to honor the black bears, bald eagles, deer, river otters and cougars that call Grandfather Mountain home. Most activities are included with park admission.
"This is a great way to celebrate all of the habitat animals, from our oldest bear, Gerry, at 27 years old, to our youngest otter, Oscar, who's just two years old," said Animal Habitats curator Christie Tipton. "We want to use this day to thank the animals for all they do to enrich our lives and to educate people about our native wildlife."
Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Nature Museum, kids can make animal birthday cards and participate in a "Test Your Animal Knowledge" contest.
From 10:30 a.m. to noon, a Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tour will be offered at a reduced rate of $20 per person. Guests can see where the cougars and otters sleep overnight, meet black bears not usually on display, observe a training session and learn more about why each animal lives at Grandfather Mountain. Space is limited, so the Behind-the-Scenes tours must be booked in advance by calling (828) 733-8715 or registering in the Nature Museum.
Fun and games commence at 10:30 a.m. and run through 12:30 p.m. just outside the Nature Museum. At 11 a.m., visitors can join in the popular "Thicket Game" at the Let It Rain Picnic Shelter.
At 12:30 p.m., staff members will host a Keeper Talk inside the Nature Museum with some of the educational animals, which include owls, snakes, and a skunk.
At 1 p.m., an interactive activity will be held outside the Fudge Shop to introduce guests to the different types of animals that live on Grandfather Mountain. Free birthday cake will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Fudge Shop.
At 1:30 p.m., join the habitat staff to make birthday enrichments for the animals at the Let It Rain Picnic Shelter. Help decorate the bears' birthday cakes or prepare a homemade toy for Aspen the cougar.
At 2:15 p.m., when winners of the "Test Your Animal Knowledge" contest are announced in the Nature Museum. Winners, along with one family member, get the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and help habitat staff give the birthday enrichment to the animal they were most knowledgeable.
The final activity of the day begins at 2:30 p.m., immediately after the announcement, in which visitors can head to the habitats to watch the animals receive their birthday enrichments. Visit grandfather.com for the full schedule.
"They are very excited," animal keeper supervisor Alexis Rowe said of the animals. "They can definitely sense that their birthdays are coming — and that we have special treats for them."
Grandfather Mountain also offers several other ways friends of the animals can help improve their lives.
The nonprofit park offers 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 online and have it delivered straight to Grandfather Mountain for immediate enjoyment by the animal residents. 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, an informational sheet about the animal's life and additional items at higher donation levels, including a plush animal, cast of an animal footprint, a day pass to Grandfather Mountain, note cards or behind-the-scenes visits with the adopted animal. Adoption levels range from $25 to $300. 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 visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.
- Grandfather Mountain
- 2050 Blowing Rock Highway
- Linville, NC 28646