North Georgia Zoo and Petting Farm will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 26-29, and otherwise is open only on select days through the winter. For directions or more information, call 706-348-7279 or visit the zoo's website at www.myfavoritezoo.com.
The North Georgia Zoo and Petting Farm near Cleveland, Ga., gained a spiny new resident this month with the discovery of a baby African crested porcupine in its porcupine exhibit.
Zoo Director Hope Bennett said the new baby -- named "Rose" for her thorny appearance -- was discovered Dec. 12 by zookeeper Justin Eckelberry who spotted some unusual movement in the prickly parents' habitat.
The baby was transferred to the zoo nursery to make sure it didn't suffer from the cold weather, Bennett said. She even has some specially made sweaters to keep her warm.
"She was found on Dec. 12 in the morning, but [we're] pretty sure she had been born the late afternoon on Dec. 11," said zookeeper Shauna Smith, a fellow zookeeper who has been caring for the spiky tyke as her surrogate mother.
The zoo and working farm is a federally and state-licensed facility that houses domestic and exotic animals including porcupines, wolves, kangaroos, teacup pigs, birds of prey, monkeys, lemurs, wildcats, camels, emus, yaks, sheep, donkeys, a water buffalo, giant frogs and reptiles like the giant tortoise, a six-foot-long monitor lizard, alligators and crocodiles, chameleons and lots of others.
Zoo officials said "Rose" will make special appearances during "Open Days After Christmas" and for the "Winter Wonderland Tours" coming in 2014.
Bennett said Rose's parents had a baby last year about the same time, but they only suspected that the mother porcupine was pregnant this year.
Porcupines at the zoo, rodent family members, "eat rodent biscuits, lots of fruit and vegetables and we give them all kinds of branches, different woods and leaves to chew on," Bennett said.
"In the wild, they would eat bark, certain roots, vegetables, fruit and sometimes insects," she said.
African crested porcupines, which have the largest quills of all porcupine species, "are from the plains of Africa and are known for their ability to protect themselves, even from lions, by [driving] their quills into a lion's nose or leg," Bennett said.
Rose soon could be on her way to fame. The zoo's African crested porcupines have been featured in a NASCAR commercial with racer and 2013 Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Bennett noted of their star status.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.