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The West Virginia State Wildlife Center, south of Buckhannon, is a 334-acre zoological facility operated by the Division of Natural Resources. It was previously known as the French Creek Game Farm.

In 1923, the Game and Fish Commission purchased property in Upshur County and created the game farm to aid in the reestablishment of wildlife populations in the state. Species such as quail, pheasant, turkey, and deer were raised there, but the breeding programs were discontinued as farm-raised animals often failed to survive in the wild.

The facility began evolving as a zoo in 1954, when two bison and two elk, species once native to the state, were imported from Oklahoma and kept in outdoor enclosures. Other animals representing native and once-resident wildlife were kept in cages until 1986, when roomier pens making use of natural features were installed on a wooded hillside. The facility was renamed the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.

More than 20 species of animals are present at French Creek at any one time. A glass-walled snake den houses timber rattlers, black snakes, and other native serpents. Otters occupy a man-made waterfall, stream bank, and pool complex built in the 1990s. Other animals include black bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, deer, elk, and bison. Birds of prey include eagles and owls. A pond equipped with an observation deck provides a home for trout, bluegill, catfish, and bass. Every Groundhog Day, visitors gather to observe whether French Creek Freddie will emerge to see his shadow.

The West Virginia Wildlife Center draws about 50,000 annual visitors, who see the animals while walking along a 1.25-mile trail leading past the enclosures. The facility is open year-round.

Last Revised on November 19, 2010


Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "West Virginia State Wildlife Center." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 19 November 2010. Web. 20 September 2017.

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