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Visitors are familiar with Grandfather Mountain's resident animals, including black bears, bald eagles, cougars, river otters and more.

But what do they do after dark?

Guests can find out Saturday, Sept. 30, at Grandfather Mountain's annual Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight, a nighttime event that features spooky fun stories told by firelight and rare after-dark tours.

From 6 to 9:30 p.m., folks can enjoy hot chocolate and warm apple cider by the brilliant glow of a bonfire. The event is BYOS (Bring Your Own S'mores), but the mountain will provide marshmallow roasting sticks, cider, hot chocolate and seating.

From there, guests will join Grandfather staff members on a nocturnal trek to the top of the mountain (via shuttle) and the environmental wildlife habitats.

"It's a whole different way to experience the animals," said Jenny Condron, habitat keeper at Grandfather Mountain. "When you see them in the daytime, it's all just a visual experience. But at night, you hear their unique noises and rustling around way before you actually see them, and it can be quite exciting and eerie."

An "Owl Prowl" will take participants on a search for the mountain's feathered denizens of the night, during which guides will attempt to communicate with the birds through recorded owl calls. As it turns out, the owls really do give a hoot.

"On our last Owl Prowl, the barred owls were very, very responsive, talking back a lot," chief habitats curator Christie Tipton said. "By the time we take the last tour, it's pitch black, and you can't see anything. Although the owls can see you."

Furthermore, some of Grandfather's educational animals, such as Herbie the Screech Owl, will make an appearance.

"Creatures of the Night is an amazing opportunity to see the new world that is Grandfather Mountain after the sun goes down," Tipton said.

The cost is $20 per person; participants must be at least 8 years old to attend. Space is limited; registration is required by visiting http://bit.ly/2eta460. For the event itself, guests are encouraged to dress warmly and bring blankets, flashlights and s'mores ingredients to enjoy around the fire.

For more, call (828) 733-8715, or email habitats@grandfather.com.

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