In 1923, the Game and Fish Commission purchased property in Upshur County and created the French Creek Game Farm. As its name implies, several species such as quail, pheasant, turkey and deer were raised on the area. These species were used in an attempt to reintroduce wildlife throughout the state. As our understanding of wildlife biology and habitat requirements increased, it became evident that farm-raised animals failed to develop the necessary skills for survival in the wild and these programs were discontinued.
From the beginning, the recreational and educational values of the Game Farm were recognized by area residents. In 1926 alone, nearly 6,000 visitors came to the Game Farm to view the animals. One large crowd gathered to see three elk brought by wagon from the railroad station. By 1927, the number of registered visitors grew to 20,000. Buffalo from Oklahoma were added to the exhibit in 1954 and attracted additional visitors.
A proclamation by the President of the United States and the Governor of West Virginia created a National Hunting and Fishing Day in 1971. This event was initially celebrated at the Game Farm in 1978 and continued each year until it was moved to the Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park in 1996.
A mobile wildlife exhibit stationed at the Game Farm traversed the state from 1974 to 1990, allowing nearly 250,000 residents to catch a glimpse of its unique tenants. Ironically, the original purpose of raising wildlife at the Game Farm had been overshadowed by its popularity as a tourist attraction.
Half a century after its creation, the DNR Wildlife Resources Section decided to replace the antiquated wildlife facilities and exhibits. In 1984, monies from the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the U.S. Department of Interior were used to begin construction on new exhibits. A new facility was dedicated in September 1986 and renamed the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.
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