The North Carolina Coastal Federation recently posted a nice look at the newish Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center on Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This visitor center represents eleven national wildlife refuges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages along the North Carolina coast.
This long-planned visitor center is a beautiful facility that offers many hands-on exhibits and activities for both young and old alike.
“Can You Find Me?” features a falsified natural habitat containing mounted turtles, birds, deer, bears, a wild turkey, snakes, a squirrel and a raccoon, to name a few. We saw 3-D molds of bear scat and deer droppings, and felt the furs of a bear, deer and the surprisingly soft river otter.
We pushed buttons to light up migration ranges for several bird species on a map. We moved our heads to view from different angles an optical-illusion map, which showed northeastern North Carolina’s current sea level and what one-, two- and three-foot sea rises would look like…
A walk-through exhibit on flooding and draining refuges featured mounted ducks, one frozen in mid-underwater dive, loving the plentiful water on the “fall” flooded side. The opposite display had mounted rabbits, turtles and wading birds enjoying the low water level of spring.
Intermittent howling from the far corner punctuated the factual narrators’ voices on various displays and led us to the mounted red wolves exhibit. My daughter’s favorite part was the button that lit up an underground den, revealing two wolf pups at play.
The pups were adorable, even though the adults exuded more menacing looks. Still, their authoritative body positions commanded respect.
In addition the visitor center also has a Cessna airplane where visitors may “fly over” the eleven national wildlife refuges represented at the Center, and the “Wild Things” Book/Gift Shop where visitors may purchase refuge items and a wide assortment of books and other educational merchandise.