Chimney Rock State Park Groups and Education Manager Emily Walker and her colleague delighted Lake Lure Classical (LLCA) 5th graders by bringing in a selection of rescued critters who live at the park. They included a Great Horned Owl — the largest owl in NC and North America — a small screech owl, a long black snake and a snapping turtle. The students learned many facts about each species and even were able to pet them.

Middle School Science Teacher Evelyn Warner’s class also got to meet one of Chimney Rock State Park’s rescue, Hannah the Opossum. Although often maligned because of its strange looks, one opossum can kill and eat some 5,000 ticks in a single season. While they can’t get them all and certainly get bitten by a few, opossums will destroy about 90 percent of all the ticks they encounter.

Chimney Rock and LLCA have an ongoing partnership to educate children to respect and appreciate the Hickory Nut Gorge’s diverse wildlife population. They are working on ways to expand the dual programs they offer LLCA students.