In the business of preserving nature since 1923, the West Virginia Wildlife Center near French Creek offers visitors a glimpse into the world of nature at its finest.
From the beginning, the recreational and educational values of the Game Farm were recognized by area residents. In 1926 alone, nearly 6,000 visitors came to the Game Farm to view the animals. One large crowd gathered to see three elk brought by wagon from the railroad station. By 1927, the number of registered visitors grew to 20,000. Buffalo from Oklahoma were added to the exhibit in 1954 and attracted additional visitors.
A mobile wildlife exhibit stationed at the Game Farm traveled the state from 1974 to 1990, allowing nearly 250,000 residents to catch a glimpse of its unique tenants. Ironically, the original purpose of raising wildlife at the Game Farm has been overshadowed by its popularity as a tourist attraction.
The Inter-Mountain file photo by John Clise
West Virginia State Wildlife Center employee Gary Hissam holds French Creek Freddie on Groundhog’s Day after announcing Freddie did not see his shadow.
Half a century after its creation, the DNR Wildlife Resources Section decided to replace the antiquated wildlife facilities and exhibits. In 1984, monies from the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the U.S. Department of Interior were used to begin construction on new exhibits. A new facility was dedicated in September 1986 and renamed the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.
Today the center features many species of wildlife and a celebrity in French Creek Freddie. Freddie is Upshur County's internationally known weather prognosticator who emerges each year after a warm winter slumber to predict whether spring will come early or late.
Freddie is on display throughout the summer months to greet visitors and occasionally pose for pictures, if he is awake.
The facility offers a paved walking trail, which is suitable for wheelchair access. Visitors can stop by the lunch counter and gift shop at the center to pick up a bite to eat and a souvenir.
The West Virginia Wildlife Center is located about 12 miles south of Buckhannon on Route 20, at its intersection with the Alexander Road, also known to some locally as "the Game Farm Road."
More information is available by calling 304-924-6211.