Posted by: Kath Usitalo | November 29, 2010

This Museum’s A Wild Card

Get up close and personal with the animals at Card Wildlife Education Center

It’s hunting season in Michigan and, although we don’t have any hunters in the immediate family, it got me thinking about a safari I took earlier this year.

It was really more of a museum visit than a safari, but it’s as close as I’ve gotten—or expect to get—to exotic species from Africa, Asia, and other spots around the globe.

Trophies include the world record Alaskan-Yukon moose

The Card Wildlife Education Center at Ferris State University in Big Rapids is home to over 180 mounted specimens bagged by FSU alumnus Roger Card and his late wife Debra.

With a successful construction business in Mt. Pleasant, the avid hunter has been able to travel the world in search of big game—and small—and has collected a variety of animals, from a record male lion to a tiny short-tailed weasel. Trophies in the Center, which opened in 2000, include the world record Alaskan-Yukon moose brought down by Debra Card.

A plaque at the 5,000-square foot space in the Arts and Sciences Commons building invites visitors to “Share our fascination and our love for wildlife. Marvel with us at the wonders of creation, cherish forever the gifts of the natural world. Roger and Debra Card Wildlife Education Center”

Roger has claimed the “North American 29” and “African Big Five Grand Slam” (the numbers refer to examples of big game species) and in 2007 received the World Hunting Award ring, the highest honor awarded by Safari Club International. His book “A Hunter’s Journey” describes highlights of his hunting excursions to 24 countries.

Quiz: Which of these specimens is not from Africa: rhino, hippo, clock, zebra, giraffe?

There’s nothing fancy about the way the animals are organized or displayed, in five rather plain rooms according to theme (North America, Asia/Australia, etc.). The straightforward exhibits define “up close and personal” because no barrier, rope, or glass comes between you and the mounts.

Besides the employee at the front desk I was the only human being in the Center during my visit and the nearness of the critters and effect of all those eyes staring into the quiet space was quite eerie.

You may not have the same experience: The Center receives more than 9,000 visitors each year, mostly in the form of school and scout group tours. Teachers and parents must have their hands full in keeping the kiddies hands away from the animals.

Keeping the kids from petting the animals with that "Don't touch or it'll bite" warning only works for so long

The Card Wildlife Education Center is open Monday through Saturday, and admission is free (donations welcome). Bring coins for the campus parking meter.

Appropriately, the Center has a Facebook page.

Visitor Info Clicks:

Card Wildlife Education Center

Big Rapids

Pure Michigan


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