Open 361 Days a Year: Admissions 10:00am – 3:30pm; park closes at 4:30pm

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Construction is in progress around our barnyard area. During this time, our barnyard animals will be interacting with new habitats inside and outside of the barn and receiving daily enrichment. Please bear with us while we make improvements for our animals and guests!
Learn more about the project at

Teens Walk on the Wild Side at the WNC Nature Center

Young Naturalists look at river specimens.

The Nature Center’s teen volunteers celebrated the end of the Fall 2019 Young Curators season by surveying the Swannanoa River for mudpuppy salamanders. Kendrick Weeks, the Western Wildlife Diversity Supervisor for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, presented to the teens on wildlife surveys and monitoring the Commission is doing in Western North Carolina. Some of the native species he spoke about included flying squirrels, hellbender salamanders, several species of bats, freshwater mussels, bog turtles, and brook trout.

After the presentation, Young Curators took to the field! We hiked down to the banks of the Swannanoa River to pull up aquatic salamander catch-and-release survey traps that were set out the day before. We didn’t pull up any mudpuppies, but Young Curators got to see some chubs and sunfish up close before releasing them back into the water. This special experience gave our teen volunteers the opportunity to dip their toes into one of many potential wildlife and conservation careers.

Working with wildlife is not limited when you’re a Young Curator! Last fall, Young Curators also got to meet the Nature Center’s white-tail deer, Becca, and feed the river otters, Olive and Obi Wan. They contributed over 200 volunteer hours to assisting staff with animal care, including making animal diets, cleaning animal habitats, handling the education snakes and turtles for guests, assisting with events, and doing special projects that support Nature Center operations and augment guest experience.

The Young Curators program is an advanced volunteer opportunity for a select group of teens committed to working weekend afternoons at the Nature Center during the Fall and Spring semesters. The program is designed to offer interested and hard-working teens a taste of some careers in wildlife and conservation. Depending on the season, Young Curators may have the opportunity to work independently, with each other, and with Nature Center staff to assist with basic animal care and handling, event planning, environmental education and interpretation, wildlife surveying and conservation field work, and exploring the operations of AZA accredited facilities.

If you’re a local teen 14-18 years old and this sounds like an experience you’d be interested in, consider diving deeper into wildlife and conservation career exploration by applying to the Young Curators program for Spring 2020! Because of the limited spots available for this advanced position, the application process is highly competitive. Be sure to demonstrate your interest, commitment, and what you bring to the team in your application.

Previous experience as a Young Naturalist is preferred, so you are encouraged to apply for and successfully complete the summer Young Naturalist program (for 13-17 year olds). Demonstrating excellence and dedication in the Young Naturalist program supports your application to the Young Curators program in following seasons. New volunteers to either program will need two letters of recommendation along with a completed application.

Find Young Naturalist and Young Curator applications and directions on how to apply here:

If you have any questions about the programs or application process, you can email the Teen Program Coordinator, Alayna Schimdt, here:

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