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The environmental habitats for native animals at Grandfather that Laurie gave such tender love and care are a real challenge. They are larger than the habitats in some of the nation's best known zoos, and this happily gives Grandfather's animals plenty of space for their homes. On the down side, the particularly private animals like Cougars sometimes are out of view of the Grandfather Mountain visitors. Some may say that rocket science is more involved and difficult. We maintain that the skill and psychology shown by Laurie and her staff in caring for the animals, yet always remembering the pleasure of the visitors by working to assure that they see what they came to see, takes talent and dedication that compares with any profession.
The habitats at Grandfather Mountain will always be named for Mildred the Bear, the nicest bear that has ever been. When Grandfather agreed to obtain two bears to be released in the wild to help rebuild the bear population in the mountains, by mistake the Atlanta Zoo sold Grandfather a young bear that the office staff at the zoo had raised on a bottle. Consequently, when that young bear was released, she did not revert to the wild. She did not know she was a bear. She had none of the hostility sometimes associated with bears; she just wanted to hang out with people. She was given the name Mildred.
Faced with the problem of providing a home for a friendly bear that would not turn wild, Grandfather Mountain obtained the expert advice of Bill Hoff, then Director of the North Carolina Zoo at Asheboro, and J. Hyatt Hammond, the architect who had done much of the design work for the state zoo. Taking full advantage of the natural terrain, Hoff and Hammond designed the original habitat that nestles between giant boulders. We have been told time and again that what they designed is the best display for Black Bears in the world. Hammond's architectural firm later designed the building that houses the Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum.
Habitats for White-Tailed Deer, Cougars (also known as Panthers and Mountain Lions), Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, and River Otters followed. A habitat for bear cubs was also needed, because the only animal friend a cub has in the world is its own mother. Laurie Mitchell Jakobsen was given a free hand to select her own staff for the habitats, and that she did her job well was obvious to anyone who viewed the habitats. The area was always neat. The animals were being fed the best known diets for their respective species. If any animal appeared under the weather, it received immediate attention from veterinarians who were always on call. Laurie's book, as well as the immaculately kept habitats, is proof that a remarkable lady loved her job. - Hugh Morton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.