What has a red coat, a fluffy tail, a long snout and three legs?

If you guessed Samson and/or Bonita, two of WNC Nature Center’s newest permanent exhibits, you’d be right.

While everyone knows a fox has a fluffy coat and tail, what is different about these animals is the fact that they each have three legs — injuries sustained from being caught, most likely in a leg-hold trap, said WNC Nature Center Director Chris Gentile.

“People are going to love these guys. They have a great story, and it’s amazing to see them. You would think they would have a tough time getting around, but boy if you didn’t see that they had only three legs, they’re just as spry as any foxes,” Gentile said.

The foxes replace the former exhibit that has been closed for about a year, following the death of the Center’s male red fox.

The exhibit will debut on Feb. 11. The two foxes were acquired from Izzie’s Pond Sanctuary in Liberty, S.C.

The 42-acre WNC Center is home to over 60 species of animals native to the Southern Appalachian Mountain region. The facility is dedicated to actively work with sanctuaries to re-home native animals that, for whatever reason, cannot be released back into the wild.

Native animals currently in the WNC Center’s care include two black bears, coyotes, a cougar and grey foxes.

On the subject of foxes, Giles said one of purposes of the Center is to help educate visitors on the animals it houses.

For example, he said, “Did you know that grey fox are outstanding climbers? They actually have semi-retractable claws like a cat does. You don’t naturally think of a dog or a canid like a fox as being a climber, but boy they spend an awful lot of time in trees. At certain times of the year, red and grey fox look very similar because of the coat they’re in. So, we say, if you see a fox in a tree, which is not uncommon, it’s probably a grey fox because red fox can’t climb.”

Unique Valentine’s Day Gift

As part of WNC Center’s ongoing efforts to raise money to support its operation, the facility sponsors an Adopt-An-Animal Program. The tiered sponsorship offer an array of items tailored around the particular animal a guest chooses.

For example, a gift at the $25 level includes an adoption certificate and animal fact sheet, a color photo and a Wild Parent decal. For $50, the package adds a one-day pass to the the nature center and a small plush animal or Silipint Drinkware. Sponsorship continues at $100, $250, $500, $600 and $1,000.

As a special Valentine’s Day promotion, underway now through Feb. 14 only, symbolic adoptions at the $100 level or above will be entered to win a prize package filled with guest passes and local coupons valued at $50. The winner will be announced on Feb. 15.

At the $600 level, guests can adopt any animal and schedule an up-close experience with the Center’s red pandas, Leafa and Phoenix, for two (ages 10 and up).

"We are so excited to welcome the red foxes back to the Center," said Gentile, who added that the park introduced its red pandas on Valentine's Day two years ago. 

Because the red panda event was so popular on the holiday set aside for love and affection, it only made sense to introduce the red foxes in a similar way. When visitors welcome Samson and Bonita, they can wander over to the red panda exhibit and wish Leafa and Phoenix happy anniversary. 

Wild Parent's Day

Once someone adopts a WNC Nature Center animal, Gentile said they are welcomed into the organization's family. Symbolic adoptions are valid for a year and include an invitation to one of the Center's two Wild Parents’ Day parties.

The next Wild Parent's Day will take place in March; the second party is scheduled for September.

During the Wild Parent's Day event, participants will receive an email invite and must RSVP quickly as space is limited.

During the day, Wild Parents will get a chance to meet an animal ambassador, create snacks for some of the adopted animals and walk around the park to see them enjoy their treats.

For more information on the WNC Nature Center, visit https://wildwnc.org/