Animal Discovery Den

Discover the Den

See the Park differently – stop by our Animal Discovery Den to learn about the wildlife ambassadors that call the Park home. All the animals you’ll meet are unreleasable, meaning they cannot be returned to their wild homes. Wild animals should stay in their natural habitats whenever possible, but sometimes injury, captive breeding, or over reliance on humans makes it hard for them to survive on their own.

In the Den, you’ll get the chance to see where some of our animal educators live when they aren’t busy teaching programs and be able to pick up some new animal facts you might not know. After you’re done exploring indoors, venture out back to see our resident opossums and groundhog in their exhibits. You’ll also enjoy our beautiful Lepidoptera (butterfly & moth) garden with dozens of native plant species meant to support our pollinators.

Want a more personal experience? Join us for an Animal Encounter program. Meet the animals and hear how our ambassadors came to live with us and more about the habitat, adaptations and natural history of their kind. These interactive programs are fun for the whole family and are offered various times throughout the year including summers and holidays. Check out our events calendar for more details.

Our Animals

Steve: Black Rat Snake

I’m the type of snake found all over North Carolina and can sometimes grow to be 7-feet long. People love me because I do an awesome job of keeping down our rodent (mice, for example) populations. Did you know that rodents can spread lots of diseases to you humans? Good thing I’m around to help you out. If you don’t see me in my home at first, look up. I’m a good climber!

Sol and Apollo: Corn Snakes

You may not have heard us called this before, but Corn Snakes are also known as Red Rat Snakes. We are very similar to the Black Rat Snake with whom we share our home, but we don’t get quite as long. Folks believe we got the name Corn Snake because we’re often found hanging out in Corn Cribs where lots of mice can be found eating corn. Did you notice that one of us has a normal color pattern while the other is an albino? Albino Corn Snakes are popular in the pet trade.

Mufasa: Eastern King Snake

Have you heard of a snake that eats other snakes? Well, that’s me, the Eastern King Snake! I am black and have yellow bands in a chainlike pattern on my back. I am often called a Chain King Snake. In the wild I would eat anything I come across such as rodents, eggs, birds, lizards and yes, even other snakes including venomous ones like the Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake. You will often find me around farms, near a water source or in suburban areas. Sometimes when I get scared, I will rattle my tail like a rattlesnake to detour predators.

Herbit: American Toad

Don’t let that bumpy skin, long legs and big eyes trick you, I’m not scary at all! Do you know what it took for me to get this look? When toads like myself hatch from our eggs, we don’t have legs like you humans. We’re tadpoles swimming in a pond. Over a couple of months, our legs grow and our body is transformed so we can come out on land. Now look at me hop!

Copes Gray Tree Frog

Listen carefully and you may hear us chatting with each other. Copes Gray Tree Frogs are the most common species of tree frog in the mountains of Western North Carolina. We are normally found in vegetation or trees, especially around water sources.  We like to come out from hiding at nighttime when we look for beetles, slugs, spiders and invertebrates to eat. Stop by and see if you can see us leaping around our exhibit!

Mac, Lacey, and Waffle: Eastern Box Turtles

Yes, yes, it’s us – the longest living turtle in town! Nobody likes to brag, but when you’re the NC State Reptile and you can live up to 100 years, you’re kind of a big deal. Although you may not see turtles like me on your visit today, they’re probably not far from you. Eastern Box Turtles can be found all over these mountains, but you don’t want to move my friends unless they’re in danger. When we get our mind set on going in a direction, we have to keep going that way. You can help us get where we’re headed, but don’t take us home! If you can’t find us in our exhibit space in the Animal Discovery Den, look for bumps under the dirt. We might be hiding!

Ossie and Valentine: Virginia Opossums

The rumors are true – we are the only marsupial species in North America! We may look scary to you, but we’re actually very important to the environment. We can eat other creatures that you might not want around, like ticks and venemous snakes (although here in the discovery den we prefer blueberries and grapes). If you don’t see one of us climbing around our enclosure we’re probably taking a nap since like our wild cousins, we’re nocturnal! You may see one of us teaching at a summer animal encounter program soon. But you won’t see us hanging by our tails… that’s a myth.

Peanut: Eastern Chipmunk

Stop by the discovery den and you may see me showing off running on my wheel or peeking through the glass at you – I’m very curious! In the wild, I would have a den with several special “rooms” for eating, sleeping, and removing waste. But here at the Park, I have my own special enclosure. Since I was attacked by a cat and have some lingering neurological damage, I can’t return to the wild. But I love to meet new friends at Chimney Rock!

Potato and Yam: Groundhogs

Come visit us in our exhibit behind the den. We’re the newest (and most mischevious) members of the Chimney Rock Ambassador squad: Tater and Yammy. We are one of the most common mammals you may encounter in the Park, so keep an eye out for our wild cousins. We like to spend our time climbing, napping, and snacking on our favorite foods like carrots and greens. You may spot our wild friends by roadways standing up to eat. This helps us keep an eye out for predators. Did you know we’re related to squirrels? In fact, we’re the largest ground squirrel around!