Since Grandfather Mountain added eagles to their showcase of indigenous North Carolina wildlife in 1981, these majestic birds-of-prey have been housed in an open-topped enclosure. All the eagles that have called Grandfather Mountain home were injured by gunshot, resulting in a full or partial wing amputation and leaving them completely flightless.
Their enclosure has remained beautiful and well maintained during this period, but several problems arose as a result of the absence of a fully enclosed habitat. Ravens, bears and other animals can enter the eagles’ home, stealing their food and posing a serious threat to their well-being.
Another drawback stemming from the park’s lack of a fully enclosed eagle habitat, is Grandfather’s inability to adopt other eagles that may be partially or fully flighted. Even though these eagles may have the ability to fly normally, other injuries, such as eye problems, could render them unable to hunt for food and survive in the wild.
The park’s habitat staff has been tirelessly fund raising for over a year in hopes of renovating the enclosure and their efforts are continuing this May with the first annual “Critter Crawl” at Grandfather Mountain. This 5K race begins in MacRae Meadows and ends at the top of Grandfather. It is a charity event where runners pay a $30 admission fee to participate. All of the money generated will directly benefit these pending renovations.
“We’ve been actively raising money for a year now in the community. We’re excited because the hope is that this race will finally allow the improvements to begin,” said Christie Tipton, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation habitat manager. If the Critter Crawl is a success and all 500 running spots are filled, it will raise funds enough to begin the renovation process on the eagle habitat.
The $30 cost per runner includes: a “Critter Crawl” t-shirt and a free day-pass for the following weekend. T-shirts are only guaranteed for participants registering before April 19. Awards will be presented to the top three male and female competitors.
The “Critter Crawl” race is very similar to the popular “Bear Run” held each year during the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, but is unique in that it loops through the animal habitat pathways, giving runners the opportunity to view the eagle habitats they are helping to renovate. Online registration for the event begins March 1.
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For registration information, please visit www.grandfather.com and for more information about the “Critter Crawl” or the eagle habitat renovation project, call 828-733-8715.