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Keepin’ it cool, Nature Center style


The heat and humidity of summer can be overbearing, even in the mountains of North Carolina. Humans stay cool by jumping in a pool, eating popsicles or enjoying some air conditioning. But what do the animals at the Nature Center do to beat the heat? 

If you’ve visited the Nature Center, you may notice that many of the habitats have a water feature. This could be a swimming pond or even a waterfall. Once outdoor temperatures hit consistently above freezing, the staff turn the water features on. It’s no small feat, as each waterfall and pool is scrubbed and cleaned daily. It’s for a good cause though – many of our animals enjoy splashing during hot summer days. In fact, resident gray wolves, Wayah and Nova, love to play in their pool, so much so that staff will put their enrichment (usually a ball) in the pool just so they can play with it in the water. They also enjoy wrestling in the water as a fun way to cool off.

Who doesn’t love a good popsicle in the summertime? Our animals love popsicles too, just maybe not the type of popsicle humans would enjoy. Resident black bears Uno and Ursa, as well as river otters Olive and Obi, thoroughly enjoy a good trout popsicle. Animal caretakers simply chop fresh, local, restaurant quality trout, place it in a metal bowl, add water and freeze. For added fun and cool down factor, keepers will toss the floating popsicle in the otters’ and bears’ swimming pool. These delicious treats keep our animals busy and cool for hours.

During the especially hot days, our resident red pandas, Leafa and Phoenix, get to enjoy air conditioning. You read that correctly – our red pandas have an air conditioned “bedroom” area.  Red pandas are native to the eastern Himalayas. The climate there is similar to WNC, but our summers can get much warmer. To combat the heat, our red pandas have the option to take a siesta in their indoor space.

The next time you visit, see if you can spot our animals enjoying their pool, popsicles, or air conditioning.