By Brittany Bowes
Within the 72 acres that make up Memorial Park in Athens, lies Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail. Anything but ordinary, Bear Hollow is a non-profit organization with free admission for all visitors. It is complete with several unique species of animals ranging from bears and beavers beavers to owls. Not only is there a unique variety of animals, but the animals are also all native to Georgia. Several of the animals have been injured or are unable to be taken care of by previous owners.
“We exhibit native Georgia wildlife that is non-releasable to the wild,” says Clint Murphy, the park coordinator at Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail. “We get our collection from some surrendered pets, mostly illegally held by the former owner, UGA wildlife vets and a few other organizations.”
An additional unique characteristic of Bear Hollow is that the staff consists completely of unpaid volunteers and interns who have a love for animals. With that said, the foundation of Bear Hollow Zoo is built upon a passion for protecting and conserving wildlife.
“I’ve always been passionate about animals, especially my pets, and it feels great being able to make a difference by caring for the animals here,” says Brooke Wallace, a junior mass media arts major and volunteer at Bear Hollow. Wallace has worked with a variety of animals including black bears, deer, opossums, bobcats and birds of prey. “I’ve experienced a lot of awesome things here, especially the time when I got to feed medicine to the new fawn” Wallace says.
Bear Hollow offers more than just viewing of the animals. They offer education to children about the wildlife. Christina Burts, a junior marine biology major and an animal education intern at Bear Hollow, shares some of her experiences and duties.
“I conduct live performances of some of the animals to the school groups that visit and teach the students about them,” Burts says. “We use the auditorium, and I bring a combination of three different animals at a time. For example, I’ll bring in an animal with scales, one with fur and one with feathers and teach the kids about the significance of each covering.”
Burts works with the smaller animals and reptiles as well, such as mallard ducks, snakes and smaller birds. "A large portion of our birds have been hit by cars and are severely injured,” Burts says. “Some animals have missing eyes or have been injured during castration. It makes me feel important to be able to care for animals that have been pained.”
Wallace and Burts, along with the rest of the volunteers are dedicated to helping wildlife in need. To all the animal lovers who haven’t yet experienced all that Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail has to offer, it’s definitely an experience that shouldn’t be passed up.
To learn more about Bear Hollow, visit www.athensclarkecounty.com/~bearhollow/ or check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BearHollowZoo