BUCKHANNON — West Virginia Wildlife Center Biologist Trevor Moore recently talked to Rotarians about upcoming events and features at the French Creek facility in the coming months. Although new to the WV Wildlife Center, Moore is proud of all they have accomplished this year and excited for the future.
A native to Utah, Moore joined the WV Wildlife Center in January 2021 and has since brought new wild boar, two otters and three wolf pups to the exhibit. In addition to adding some new critters, Moore also assisted with his first Groundhog Day celebration, although this year’s event didn’t include the large crowd due to the pandemic. The WV Wildlife Center partnered with Mountaineer Food Bank to host a food give-away, which Moore noted was very successful.
A feature that will be most exciting for the kiddos and one Moore is also excited about, is a new Nature Activity Center that will include a huge aquarium from Trout Unlimited. This will be the first time that the WV Wildlife Center will have a fish exhibit. According to Moore, there will be a lot of hands-on activities for the kids—also allowing visitors to get in out of the heat. A tentative opening date for the nature activity center has not yet been set, but Moore is hopeful they can get it up and running in the near future. The center will be located across the street from the gift shop.
Thanks to a federal stimulus package through a partnership with the Upshur County Board of Education, families with students in Upshur County also qualified for free passed to the WV Wildlife Center all summer long. Moore mentioned that they have already exceeded what they would normally make in a year, as the Wildlife Center is reimbursed through the stimulus funding. “We’ve already done quite a bit this year,” he noted.
During the first week of August, the center will host a living history reenactment. Actors/actresses will have tents up and craft areas to reenactment what life was like during the Civil War and on. Guests will walk through the exhibit and experience different decades. Also, during the first week of August, the Wildlife Center has partnered with WVU Medicine to host an educational program regarding mental health. The goal is to teach youth coping mechanisms and proper mental health hygiene.
The WV Wildlife Center will also be participating in National Hunting and Fishing Day, which was moved from Stonewall Jackson Lake to Beckley this year. Moore noted the event is going to be massive, but everything is free except the $15 parking fee for the weekend. He encourages everyone to go check that out.
The WV Wildlife Center made headlines several times last year as their two grey wolves had to be euthanized in March 2020 after escaping their enclosure. A little over year later, the facility recently added three new members to their family. The process of acquiring the pups took approximately 7 months and they made their first appearance in the exhibit the first week of July.
The wolf pups, all females, came from Minnesota when they were only 5 weeks old and weighed just 5 lbs. The wolf pups are now pushing 15 weeks, according to Moore, and growing like weeds. He also added that they’re over 30 lbs. now and growing by almost a pound a week. At this rate, Moore noted that the wolves will become unaware of their own strength and may potentially be rougher than intended.
When they reach about 8-9 months old, Moore explained they will start sexually maturing, which will create some hormone changes. Moore said he’s excited, but also nervous about that. They’ve been working hard to interact with the wolves on a regular basis, so the workers are comfortable and the two species learn boundaries. “We are trying to make sure our guys become members of the pack from day one,” he emphasized. Moore also noted that grey wolves and timber wolves are the same animal—similar to people interchanging the words mountain lion and cougar.
When the wolf pups were only a few weeks old, they were being fed a mix of beef and venison. Right now, they’re mainly eating venison in the evenings and dry dog food throughout the day. However, when they’re adults they will be transitioned to dry dog food only.
The WV Wildlife Center goes through approximately 300 deer a year, according to the biologist. Most of this is called in from roadkill and fed to the mountain lions/cougars. During the spring and summer, the two cougars only go through approximately 7 lbs. each, per day. However, in the fall, they will start ramping that up to 14-15 lbs. each day. “You can imagine we go through deer a lot come October. We also get donations from hunters and local people,” Moore explained. Moore encourages others to notify them when they encounter fresh roadkill because they can always use it between the wolves, coyotes, vultures, cougars and even owls.
Animals in captivity behave differently, according to Moore, and traditionally live longer than if they were in the wild. For example, bobcats are known to live 8-12 years in the wild, but the Wildlife Center recently lost one that was 16 years old. Grey wolves in captivity are expected to live 14-20 years.
One of the ultimate goals of the WV Wildlife Center is to create an exhibit that allows people to view and learn about all animals native to West Virginia. The means of obtaining these animals vary, depending on circumstances. Recently, the center retrieved new wild boar and two otters that were considered “nuisance animals.” One boar was reportedly abandoned and rescued from under a porch. Moore noted that one of the interesting challenges with animals in captivity is trying to integrate them in the same space. The first week of integrating the boar, one of the others threw the baby approximately 3 feet in the air, so Moore explained they had to separate again for awhile longer.
The two nuisance otters that were recently captured with the help of law enforcement are “getting along great and doing well,” he expressed.
Rotarians were impressed with the volume of activities taking place at the Wildlife Center and were eager to ask Moore questions about the eating habits of the animals, maintenance of the center, the tentative Nature Activity Center and much more.
Moore emphasized that even when wildlife appears to be abandoned, it typically is not. When it comes to an abandoned fawn, Moore mentioned that sometimes another doe may it take in. “If you see wildlife, don’t touch it,” he articulated. Instead, Moore encourages people to call it in when they notice an animal, so they can help out as best they can.
The WV Wildlife Center has approximately 12 staff, including Moore the biologist, his assistant, three wildlife technicians, three part-time/full-time employees depending on the season, two tour guides over the summer, and three people working the admissions building. They also work with another biologist and her assistant in District III. Moore noted that the wildlife technicians have been a part of the Wildlife Center for several years.
Moore’s guys mow and maintain approximately 26 acres of grass and vegetation, although the entire exhibit covers approximately 300 acres. Maintaining the enclosures and surrounding is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the animals. For example, there is a snail that carries parasitic worms that can kill some of the animals if proper cleaning and maintenance isn’t taking place.
Although native to a busy, suburban area in Utah, Moore and his family are adjusting to the narrow roads and miles of shaded backroads from the greenery. “In Utah roads are big enough to turn around a covered wagon. Here, I wonder if I can pass other cars going the opposite direction,” he joked. This makes seven moves in 9 years of marriage for Moore and his wife. “It is very different but very nice and we are enjoying it a lot,” he added.
For more information about the WV Wildlife Center visit their website, https://www.wvdnr.gov/wildlife/wildlifecenter.shtm. Although the WV Wildlife Center is state funded, their attendance also feeds into their funds to maintain the facility. Moore encourages all families with students in the Upshur County school system to utilize their free passes this summer.
In other news for the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur, the group has and will continue to assist the Parish House with their annual backpack and school supply giveaway, which takes place August 2-5. The Club contributes by supplying donations and assists with the distribution. They’re also hopeful to continue their blood screenings in August or September and increase the number of participants. President of the Club, Kathy McMurray noted they received a lot of requests for the blood screenings.