West Virginia Wildlife Center

Lean about the native fauna of the mountain state at this 330-acre French Creek, West Virginia, destination that is home to over 30 species of animal. 

Fisher animal at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek, West Virginia (photo courtesy of West Virginia Wildlife Center)

In 1923, the state of West Virginia founded the French Creek Game Farm in a rural town roughly 12 miles south of Buckhannon, West Virginia. What started as a facility to raise and reintroduce decreasing populations of wild game into the hills of the Mountain State in the early 20th century is now the West Virginia Wildlife Center, a 330-acre zoological park dedicated to educating visitors on native West Virginia fauna.

The park houses just under 100 individual animals representing over 30 different species. These include eagles, foxes, black bears, otters and raccoons, as well as animals that have been extirpated from the state like bison, elk, mountain lions and wolves. Each of these species can be seen in various enclosures along the park’s paved and covered 1.25-mile loop trail. The Old Oak Trail, a 2.5-mile offshoot of the animal loop trail, allows visitors to hike through a forest of over-100-year-old trees and down to a fishing pond that is stocked with native fish species like bass, catfish and trout.

During the park’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2023, it expanded its mission of spreading conservation awareness and education with a newly repurposed nature center that offers a variety of activities for kids such as making pine-cone bird feeders, learning about camouflage and touching animal pelts. Biologists at the center emphasize the importance of the park and its mission to educate visitors about these animals by teaching them the history of different species in the state as well as the environments they call home.

Free guided tours are available upon request and offer fun and interesting stories about the animals and the center that visitors may not otherwise learn. The park is open year-round, with April through October being the most popular time to visit. At press time, the center was temporarily closed while undergoing federal recertification. Please check before traveling. 163 Wildlife Rd., French Creek, West Virginia 26218, 304/924-6211, wvdnr.gov