Mountain Wildlife Daze

The eighth annual Mountain Wildlife Days is scheduled for July 15 and 16 at the Sapphire Valley Community Center. The event is sponsored by Wild South along with partners Sapphire Valley Resort and Cashiers Travel & Tourism.

The program — organized in large part by Wild South volunteer John Edwards of Cashiers and designed to entertain and educate the public regarding the beauty, diversity and issues facing the wild things and wild places here in Western North Carolina and beyond — has been enthusiastically received across the region.

There will be new presenters this year including Freeman Owle, beloved historian and storyteller from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Owle will talk about how the Cherokee have valued and still value the creatures and mountains that have sustained them for centuries.

Kate Marshall, award-winning cinematographer, will share close-up videos of black bears and cubs. Marshall, who recently presented at the Black Bear Festival in Umatilla, Fla., will focus on human-black bear interactions, which ties in with the “bear smart” initiative sponsored by the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (JMCA).

One long-time and much-loved Mountain Wildlife Days presenter, Rob Gudger and his show-stopping wolves, will be presenting a brand new program this year. The new program is designed to promote a better understanding of wolves and their place in the natural environment.

To help you better understand how these wonderful creatures tolerate Rob – the domestic dog is the wolf’s closest relative – their DNA differs by only about 0.2 percent. The wolf and its closest wild relative the coyote differ by about 4 percent. That chihuahua in your pocket and/or that newfoundland on the sofa get their intelligence and social skills from their amazing wild ancestors.

From fur to feathers: The Eagle Lady, Doris Mager, will be present with her collection of feathered friends including owls, falcons and a crested caracara. Cynthia Strain of the JMCA and the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society will lead a bird-walk Friday morning.

A couple of other free hikes will also be offered Friday morning. Guided hikes in Panthertown Valley and on Whitesides Mountain are offered — but there is a cut-off for participants. If you wish to participate in one of these hikes you should call the Sapphire Valley Community Center at 828.743.7663.

If flying and/or furry are not your cup of tea, how about scaly and slithery? Steve O’Neil, “Wildlife Warrior,” will present, along with a few furry mammals, a number of reptiles and amphibians with the message that salamanders are animals too.

The focus on Friday evening will be “seeing God in everything.” It will be a musical celebration performed by the newly created “Creation Singers” with messages from pastors Steve Kerhoulas of Christ Church of the Valley and Randy Harry of Cashier United Methodist Church. There will also be music by Judy Felts, Lee Porter and acclaimed wildlife photographer Bill Lea. Relax, folks, this is not a “Creationist” celebration but a celebration of nature as part and parcel of the creation we all enjoy.

For tickets and more information visit the Sapphire Valley Community Center or call 828.743.7663.  For a detailed schedule of activities, visit and click on 2011 Mountain Wildlife Days.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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