Bays Mountain features a wonderful collection of animals that are native to the area. Click on the tabs below to learn more about each animal habitat. Click here for a building and habitat map.
Bobcats are recognized by tufts of black hair on the ear tips and a very short tail, which is 4 inches long. Larger than typical housecats, bobcats weight 25 -35 lbs. These cats lead a solitary life, coming together only to mate. Kittens are born in early spring and are fully mature in two years. During darkness bobcats stalk their prey, which includes rabbits, birds, and rodents. They compete with coyotes for food. Bobcats are good climbers and may spend many hours in trees, finding refuge there when threatened. Bobcats make a variety of sounds such as purring, growling, hissing, and screaming.
Our cats feed upon various meats and treats of bones, mice, squirrels, and rabbits. Put on your “wildlife eyes” and look hard to find these shy, secretive, and well camouflaged creatures.
Did you know that rattlesnakes can find their prey by using heat sensors and salamanders can breathe through their skin? Learn more about the fascinating world of reptiles and amphibians by visiting our Herpetarium. The focal point of this facility is the “snake wall,” featuring eight species of native snakes in natural habitats.
In addition to reptiles and amphibians, our Herpetarium features America’s only marsupial; Opossums. Peek through some of the openings in this exhibit to catch a glimpse of our opossums. Volunteers often take one of our opussums around the Nature Center and animal habitats so that visitors can get an upclose look at these unique animals.
The Herpetarium has a spacious classroom as well as a facility for food preparation for the various animal habitats in the park. Be sure to visit the Herpetarium section of our website for more information about this visitor area.
What do hawks, Owls, and Falcons have in common? They are all raptors, or birds of prey. Visit some of these magnificent birds at the Bays Mountain Park Raptor Center. Our center was designed and built by volunteer staff who also maintain the facility and train the birds for raptor programs. The center now houses seven birds in two unique habitat structures and includes an office/food preparation building. Funding for the center and its continued growth relies on support from the community.
Bays Mountain Park relies on the dedication of our volunteers to maintain the Raptor Center, care for the birds and provide public programs. Do you have the time and desire to volunteer at the center? Our volunteers prepare food, clean enclosures, become handlers for our birds and create educational programming and present those programs.
Visit the Raptor Center section of our website for more information.
Otters spend most of their lives in the water. Active at night, their sleek bodies are perfect for diving, swimming, and catching aquatic prey. Propelled by their webbed feet, otters use their long round tail to steer left and right. When otters dive, they close their ears and noses; their heart rate slows down and so does their respiration. These adaptations allow the otter to stay submerged for up to five minutes. Otters have two layers of fur; the outer fur gets wet, but the inner fur stays dry when swimming. This arrangement allows otters to stay warm while swimming in cold water.
Our otter pool is used to rehabilitate otters that occasionally get hurt by people. The ones that stay are deemed unreleaseable and are kept here for their safety. Otters may also be seen in Bays Mountain Lake, TVA lakes and the Holston River. Otters weigh about 25 lbs. Our otters eat fish, crayfish, meat and eggs.
Turtle Cove is adjacent to the Herpetarium and provides habitat for various species of turtles. The turtle’s shell is formed of bony plates that give the shell its shape. Ribs and vertebrae (backbones) are part of the shell too. Box turtles have a hinge on the lower shell which allows them to go inside their shells and close up. Aquatic turtles, like Red-Eared Sliders, have large protective shells, but no hinges.
Turtles feed upon a diet containing vegetables and meats. Cold weather brings on hibernation which lasts until spring. If you are visiting during the winter months and Turtle Cove appears to be empty, the turtles are still there but have burrowed into the ground for hibernation.
A watershed is an area of land (big or small) in which all the rainwater drains off and travels to the same place. In the United States there are 2,110 watersheds. All living things in these areas are linked together by their common water source. Visit the exhibit depicting the Bays Mountain Watershed; follow a rain drop as it falls from the sky, trickles through the forest, travels through a beaver pond and the lake, then ends up in the Holston River. Aquariums showcase native fish and invertebrates from stream, lake and pond ecosystems.
Our Watershed exhibit is located in the lower level of the Nature Center building.
There are many deer of this type that roam freely around the grounds at Bays Mountain Park. We have some that we keep safe in a special habitat where we take care of them and allow them to be easily viewed by the public. Males are called bucks and females are called does. Bucks are easily identified by their antlers (called a rack). Antlers are made of bone and have points called tines. Antlers are shed in late winter, then a new set of antlers start to grow. Mating occurs in late fall and does give birth to one ore two bablies (fawns) about six months later. Fawns spend a great deal of time sitting alone while their mother is foraging elsewhere. White spots on the fawn’s coat help them be camouflaged.
When deer are alarmed they may stomp and snort to warn other deer. They also raise their tail so that the white fur underneath can be seen; this is called “flagging.” Deer can jump an 8 foot tall fence, swim 13 miles per hour, and can run up to 40 miles per hour.
Deer are herbivores who feed on leaves, berries, seeds, nuts, and mushrooms. They feed early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Summer foods are green leaves from trees, shrubs, and aquatic plants such as water lilies. Winter foods are acorns, other nuts, and twigs of woody plants. Deer have a stomach with four chambers which helps them digest these foods. Our deer eat a mixture of wheat, oats, corn, apples, carrots, and sorghum.
These animals are extremely adaptable and live in varied habitats such as woodlands, fields, and suburban areas. Distinguished by a black mask across the eyes and black rings on it’s tail, raccoon’s forepaws resemble tiny human hands. These paws have five fingers and are very sensitive to touch. Raccoons usually pick up their food with the front paws before putting it in their mouth. These paws also allow them to climb with ease, but accidents happen and they have been known to survive falls from 40 feet up. Raccoons are also excellent swimmers.
Raccoons are mostly nocturnal, but sometimes venture out during the daytime. In winter raccoons have less food so they live off of their body fat; they can lose 50 percent of their body weight while sleeping. Raccoons do not hibernate. They can live up to 16 years in the wild but most don’t make it past their second birthday.
Foods include mice, birds, chipmunks, turtles, insects, fruits, seeds, eggs, and nuts. Our raccoons eat fruits, nuts, meat and grains.
Wolves are predators which hunt and eat other wild animals. Members of the dog family, they are related to dogs, foxes, and coyotes. Gray Wolves were once more numerous in North America, than any other mammal. Starting in the mid 1800’s widespread killing of wolves took place across the United States and the last wolves to inhabit East Tennessee were killed in the 1920s.
Wolves live in family groups called packs which contain 2 to 30 members, with 8 being an average number. Wolves communicate by scent marking, howling, and using their body to send signals to each other. Howls may be used to call the pack together, may precede a hunt, and are used to announce territory to other wolf packs. Howls can be heard for miles. Wolf packs are complex social organizations and pack leaders are called alphas. The alpha male and alpha female ascend to this position by winning fights and wrestling matches with other wolves. Mating season extends from February to March, and pups are born in late April or May. The alpha pair is the only members of the pack which mate.
Bays Mountain’s wolves have been captive born and socialized to people, which means that they are used to having people around but are not tame. Our wolves eat a variety of meats which are supplemented with occasional treats such as fish, eggs, apples, and pumpkins.