Behind-the-scenes tours to begin at Grandfather
Starting April 24, the general public will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes of Grandfather Mountain's animal habitats.
Two new programs are being offered in the habitats: Behind the Scenes habitat tours and "Keeper for a Day" outings.
Behind the Scenes habitat tours give the public an opportunity to see where the animals sleep, learn about what it takes to care for the animals year-round, observe a training session, and learn why the animals call Grandfather Mountain their home. The mountain's knowledgeable and experienced keepers will gladly answer any questions as they guide participants on their tour.
"We are very excited to introduce our guests to the animals we love and give them a better understanding of why the animals are here and why conservation is so important," said habitat manager Christie Tipton.
Each tour takes one hour and 30 minutes. There is no age limit, but small children must be carried if they are not capable of walking on their own. The use of strollers is prohibited during the tour. Participants must be able to walk up and down steep terrain, wear closed-toe hiking or work boots, dress in layers and be willing to sign a waiver of liability.
The cost for the Behind the Scenes habitat tour is $75 per participant ($50 each for annual pass holders). Admission to the park is included. To schedule an available tour date, it must be booked 48 hours in advance and dates can be found under the "Wildlife Habitats" tab on http://www.grandfather.com. To make a reservation, send an e-mail to (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In addition to Behind the Scenes habitat tours, guests may choose to learn what it takes to care for the animals by becoming a "Keeper For a Day." Keepers for a Day will shadow the habitat staff, interact with the animals, help with the cleaning and feeding, and assist with enrichment activities for the animals.
Participants must be 12-years-old or older, capable of walking up and down steep, rough terrain and must be willing to sign a waiver of liability. Lunch with the habitat staff is included and each participant will be given a work shirt.
"We hope to give people a better appreciation for our habitat staff and the wonderful animals that they care for," said Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation executive director Penn Dameron.
The "Keeper For a Day" outing must be booked one week in advance by sending an e-mail to (email@example.com) Please allow 24 hours for a response. The cost is $200 per participant ($150 each for annual pass holders) with park admission and lunch included. This program will be offered the second Tuesday of each month May through October. For more information, call the Grandfather Mountain Habitat Office at (828) 733-8715.
"The habitat staff and the animals alike are looking forward to meeting all of the new keepers that we hope to welcome to the mountain," Tipton said.
Grandfather Mountain is a 600-acre scenic attraction and nature preserve located near Linville, on U.S. 221, one mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park in the public interest, and participate in educational and research activities. All proceeds from the sale of tickets and souvenirs go toward caring for and presenting Grandfather Mountain in a manner that inspires good stewardship in others.