Organizations: Chattahoochee Nature Center
A red-tailed hawk glowers imperiously at visitors to the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
“She’s actually very friendly,” says wildlife technician Samantha Klouda. “She imprinted on humans, so she can’t be released. She’s been here for 26 years, and we take her out for demonstrations for school groups.”
The Chattahoochee Nature Center, a private nonprofit founded in 1976 in Roswell, is the only ecology-based interpretative center for the river that courses beside it and feeds Atlanta’s water supply. “We’re an educational facility, a tourist destination and a sanctuary that engages visitors with the environment, particularly the river, around us,” says Executive Director Chris Nelson.
On its 127 acres, the center also features a boardwalk along the shore, canoe trips led by naturalists, a garden that supplies a food bank with produce and a nature exchange where children can trade fossils, seashells and other finds. The busiest part of the center, though, is the wildlife emergency room, which keeps several nearby veterinarians on call. Of the animals people have brought to the center, about 31 percent are returned to the woods, nearest the spot where they were found.
Animals that are too injured or too tame to survive in the wild find a refuge here, so the center is home to 80 permanent residents, including bald eagles, beavers and a turkey vulture that someone had kept as a pet. “You’d be surprised at how sweet and social vultures are,” says Henning Von Schmelling, director of operations. “Other vultures come here to hang out near ours.”