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.
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!
Petunia: Common Snapping Turtle
Watch your fingers! No, I’m not an Alligator Snapping Turtle like everyone says. Those guys need warmer water. I’m a good ole’ Common Snapping Turtle, but I still bite. It’s not because I eat fingers and toes, but probably more likely because I’m scared. I’m supposed to live in the water, and when I’m there I mind my own business. When I must cross land to find a new home or lay my eggs, I get really nervous and sometimes seem grumpy. Make sure if you’re going to help me cross, you do the “snapper scoot” and use a shovel or other tool to gently help me pass.
Mac and Lacey: 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 was rescued as a baby after her mother was involved in a car accident. Rehabilitators soon discovered that she has underdeveloped eyesight that would limit her survival in the wild, so she came to live with us at Chimney Rock. Just like her wild cousins, she is nocturnal and you will often catch her taking naps during the day. She loves to eat blueberries and wrap up in her favorite blankets. Ossie has become quite the educator, so you may see her sharing her amazing opossum adaptations at Park programs.
Oscar is one of the most amazing opossums you might ever meet. He was born without eyes and rescued after a dog attack in 2021. He does not let a lack of eyesight stop him, and he loves to climb and explore in his exhibit. He loves grapes and daily enrichment puzzles that keep his mind at work. You may or may not know that opossums like Oscar can eat up to 200 ticks per day, so they’re great pals to have in your backyard.
Pumpkin is one of our newest mammal ambasadors, as he arrived just before Groundhog Day this year! He experienced neurological damage that has affected his coordination and natural fear of humans, and therefore can no longer live in the wild. Here at the Park, he enjoys running, digging and eating lots of carrots. Drop by the Discovery Den to learn more about Pumpkin and why groundhogs are considered one of North America’s largest ground squirrels.
Peanut is an eastern chipmunk who recently joined the Chimney Rock family. He has neurological damage sustained during a cat attack and cannot survive in the wild on his own. Chipmunks have many interesting adaptations. In the wild, Peanut’s den would have several “rooms” for storing food, sleeping, and removing waste. Here at the Park, he has a special enclosure with a running wheel and other enrichment. Peanut is very curious and loves to show off for guests.