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CARD Nature Center Achieves Milestone: Receives Restricted Species Permit

May 15, 2023

Kurt Geiger feeds Western pond turtle Flash with kids
Kurt Geiger feeds Western pond turtle Flash before Nature ABC's


The Chico Creek Nature Center (CCNC) received its Restricted Species Permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife last month, a permit the organization has been striving to achieve for several years. This momentous accomplishment will allow the CCNC to inhabit non-releasable restricted birds and mammals in its Janeece Webb Living Animal Museum in Bidwell Park.

CCNC animal care director Kurt Geiger was ecstatic to receive the permit, with a hefty goal to obtain a total of 20 native species by the end of the year. As for the permit animals, the current goal is to acquire four restricted species over the next few years, starting with a rescued barn owl.

“When I started my job, there were 14 animals at the museum, and only 3 were native to California,” said Geiger. “We now have 6 non-native animals and 14 different native species. I hope to get up to 20 native species.”

The CCNC’s Janeece Webb Living Animal Museum has seen several substantial updates since Geiger started last October, including new animals and upgraded habitats. Some of the new native animals include a gopher snake, red-sided garter snake, western banded gecko, western toad, and a California forest scorpion, which helps the Chico Area Recreation & Park District (CARD) provide wildlife education to the Chico community.

CCNC recreation coordinator Francesca Shaffer has been working tirelessly to receive the permit to expand the Living Animal Museum’s educational offerings.

“Receiving this permit is extraordinary,” said Shaffer. “This has been a goal of mine since I started in 2019, and to finally have it feels surreal and exhilarating. It opens so many possibilities, and not just with the types of animals we can bring in. As we expand the Living Animal Museum, we can expand our educational offerings to Chico residents and the surrounding communities. We have huge plans in store for raptor education and hope to eventually bring on a restricted mammal. I am personally team skunk!”

The upgrades to the CCNC have been an ongoing, collaborative effort thanks to Shaffer and Geiger’s efforts and passion for wildlife education.

“So many people have been involved with the upgrades at the Nature Center, including our previous animal care director Celeste Hitchman; our assistant animal care director Ryan Needels; and our incredible maintenance crew, particularly Bryan Beck,” said Shaffer. “And none of this could have happened without the support and approval of CARD’s leadership team, who have been great at recognizing the need and ensuring these upgrades were a priority! It takes a village, and ours has really come together to make some wonderful improvements.”

“We have worked hard to create really updated, clean habitats for each animal and develop good diets for them,” said Geiger. “I’m extremely proud of the work the staff and volunteers have put in, it really has been a team effort. I think it’s some of the best work the Nature Center has seen in a long time.”

The CCNC Janeece Webb Living Animal Museum is currently open Saturday through Monday, 10 AM–1 PM, off East 8th Street in Bidwell Park. For more information, visit and follow Chico Creek Nature Center on Facebook and @ChicoCreekNatureCenter on Instagram.



About Chico Creek Nature Center
Located on East 8th Street in the heart of Bidwell Park, Chico Creek Nature Center provides creative opportunities for children and families seeking fun and nature-based educational activities. The Nature Center offers activities, including field trips, camps, nature walks, and fun events throughout the year. It is also the Bidwell Park information center and hosts visitors from the United States and around the world each year. Learn more at

About Chico Area Recreation and Park District
Founded in 1948, the Chico Area Recreation and Park District (CARD) is a California Special District focused on creating recreational opportunities that bring friends and families together to have fun and build lasting memories. CARD manages and cares for more than 12 community and neighborhood parks, four community centers, one swimming pool, the Chico Creek Nature Center, and other facilities. The PLAY Activity Guide highlights the numerous sports, classes, camps, special events, and more CARD offers. Learn more about CARD at