Monday, November 05, 2007

Bear Hollow's Poor Cousin

When I lived in Athens, Katy and I enjoyed going to a small zoo called Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail. Tucked away on a small street called Gran Ellen drive in a residential area behind Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Bear Hollow shares acreage with two other great Athens pit stops: Memorial Park and the Birchmore Trail, a winding, two-mile jaunt I hiked throughout college when I started to feel the indoors closing in on me.

Bear Hollow, a family-friendly attraction, was built to provide homes for all types of creatures native to Georgia that could no longer take care of themselves in the wild. It is a place where the outcasts of Georgia's animal world become ambassadors, preaching the merits of conservation with their cuteness and proximity. Just by lazing around, they capture the imagination of the zoo's visitors. Although these animals are native to Georgia, most people will never see them in the wild: owls, otters, hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, bobcats, deer, turkeys, groundhogs, alligators and the signature black bears that gave the zoo its name.

While hiking around on Arabia Mountain the other day, Evan and I discovered a similar wildlife rescue effort, although on a smaller scale. As we followed the trail, it emptied into a parking lot that led up to what looked like a small log house. A circular sign told us that this was home base for A.W.A.R.E., the Atlanta Wildlife Awareness Rescue Effort. Unlike Bear Hollow, its older, flashier cousin, the AWARE center was nowhere near ready for a full-scale visitor assault. AWARE has been in the fund-raising stages since 2005 and needs lots of work to catch up with Bear Hollow.

As you'll see in the above video, cages forged of various types of wire led up a hill and back behind the house. Curious, we advanced into the labyrinth of fence, wire and strewn lumber, not knowing what we would find. Workers eyed us indifferently from inside the house. As we climbed farther into the maze, the creatures became more exotic. I'll let you watch the video to figure out what happened...

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