FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. — For this week’s stop on our Destination West Virginia segment, we are going to the West Virginia State Wildlife Center located in French Creek in Upshur County. The State Wildlife Center is a perfect place to visit if you like to see and learn about the wildlife in the state of West Virginia.

The West Virginia State Wildlife Center’s Biologist 1, Trevor Moore said, “We’re a small zoological center where you can see a lot of the native animals here to West Virginia and it’s a great basically outing for families or for anybody just looking to get out in nature.”

The center is not a rehabilitation center, but rather a place to view animals that are either captured or bought by the center. Although the center is not a rehabilitation center, Moore said, that almost all the birds at the center come from the Raptor Rehab center in Fairmont because they can’t be released back into the wild.

Besides birds, the wildlife center has many different types of animals.

“We have birds, we have mammals, we have reptiles and amphibians,” Moore explains. He continues, “The only thing we don’t have right now is fish and we’re actually working on that. We’re going to get fish for the first time here, actually an aquarium.” Moore said the aquarium is expected to be finished by the end of the year. 

“We’ve got the big mammals, like cougars and mountain lions and wolves and bears as well as some of the more reclusive animals that people don’t get to see so much, like eastern screech owls, maybe skunks, and grey foxes,” said Moore.

You can view the animals along with a wheelchair-accessible paved path around the wildlife center. The animal loop is 1.25 miles long in the forest. The path allows you to get up and personal with the animals, while at the same time keeping a safe distance from them.

The State Wildlife Center is a perfect place for families to come and hang out. Families can view the animals along the loop, have lunch in one of their picnic areas, or come and do an activity in a wide-open field.

Moore said, “They love seeing the animals and the more you get to come and see the more of their personality you get to see of the animals coming through. We got this great gift shop for kids, we got fields, come fly a kite or kick a ball around.” 

He added that they plan to open a nature activity center in the future, which will be another great place for families and kids to hang out and learn.

They try to hold events all year round to provide the community with extra things to do while visiting the center. Of course, their most famous event, Groundhogs Day in February, where they have their famous French Creek Freddy predict an early spring or long winter. 

In August, the center hosts a historical reenactment and in October they host spook nights. 

Moore said, “We’re coming up on our 100th anniversary in 2023 soon, so we have over 100 years of history for anybody that wants to come and learn about it.”

The animals are properly cared for by the staff. Moore said 6 wildlife techs take care of the animals day in and day out, making sure their homes are clean, and making sure the animals have fresh food and water. They also make sure the animals have a place to go if they are stressed out from seeing people, so they can hide and de-stress.

The West Virginia State Wildlife Center is open year-round, every day of the year.

“During the active season it’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and during the offseason, it’s 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Active season is April to October, and off-season is November to March,” said Moore.