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Visit all of French Creek’s creatures

West Virginia Wildlifes Center going strong after nearly 90 years

April 30, 2012

The West Virginia Wildlife Center has been offering guests an up-close and safe view of a variety of woodland creatures for nearly 90 years in Upshur County.

The Wildlife Center is a modern zoological facility displaying 29 species of native and introduced state wildlife on 338 acres. Operated by the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the Wildlife Center is dedicated to presenting visitors a realistic and factual understanding of our state's wildlife. Woodland wildlife can be viewed along a wheelchair-accessible interpretative trail that extends 1.25 miles through a mature hardwood forest.

The spacious enclosures allow the animals to interact with their environment, where they therefore exhibit more natural behavior patterns. Interpretive signs help the visitor to learn more about each animal's life history, biology and its relationship with humans. Group tours are available upon request.

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain file photo by John Clise
West Virginia State Wildlife Center employee Gary Hissam holds French Creek Freddie on Groundhog’s Day after announcing Freddie did not see his shadow, meaning a quick end to winter. Freddie’s prediction held true with tempertures in the following weeks reaching record highs.

The Wildlife Center is the perfect setting for a family outing. In addition to exhibits, there is a large wooded picnic area with grills and a shelter. Look for waterfowl or fish for trout, bass, catfish and bluegill in the well-stocked pond below the picnic area. A gift shop is available to satisfy your souvenir and refreshment needs. The Wildlife Center is a facility where visitors can see, enjoy and learn more about West Virginia's rich wildlife heritage.

In 1923, the Game and Fish Commission purchased property in Upshur County and created the French Creek Game Farm. As its name implies, several species such as quail, pheasant, turkey and deer were raised on the area. These species were used in an attempt to reintroduce wildlife throughout the state. As our understanding of wildlife biology and habitat requirements increased, it became evident that farm-raised animals failed to develop the necessary skills for survival in the wild and these programs were discontinued.

From the beginning, the recreational and educational values of the Game Farm were recognized by area residents. In 1926 alone, nearly 6,000 visitors came to the Game Farm to view the animals. One large crowd gathered to see three elk brought by wagon from the railroad station. By 1927, the number of registered visitors grew to 20,000. Buffalo from Oklahoma were added to the exhibit in 1954 and attracted additional visitors.

Fact Box

West Virginia

Wildlife Center

- The center is located about 12 miles south of Buckhannon on Route 20.

- Hours of operation vary because of seasonal changes and weather conditions. Generally, the facility is open seven days a week, year-round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- A small admission fee is required April 1 through Oct. 31

- For more information, call 304-924-6211.

A proclamation by the president of the United States and the governor of West Virginia created a National Hunting and Fishing Day in 1971. This event was initially celebrated at the Game Farm in 1978 and continued each year until it was moved to the Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park in 1996.

A mobile wildlife exhibit stationed at the Game Farm traversed the state from 1974 to 1990, allowing nearly 250,000 residents to catch a glimpse of its unique tenants. Ironically, the original purpose of raising wildlife at the Game Farm had been overshadowed by its popularity as a tourist attraction.

Half a century after its creation, the DNR Wildlife Resources Section decided to replace the antiquated wildlife facilities and exhibits. In 1984, monies from the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the U.S. Department of Interior were used to begin construction on new exhibits. A new facility was dedicated in September 1986 and renamed the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.

Hours may vary due to seasonal changes and weather conditions. Generally, the facility is open seven days a week, year-round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A small admission fee is required April 1 through Oct. 31.

The West Virginia Wildlife Center is located about 12 miles south of Buckhannon on state Route 20, at the intersection of state Route 20 and Alexander Road, also known to some locally as "the Game Farm road," referencing the previous name of the facility.

For more information, call 304-924-6211 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.



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