Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New display helps Iowans learn about cougars

A local exhibit is designed to let people know that mountain lions, or cougars, aren't aggressive animals -- especially when they're stuffed.

"Lions in Iowa!" will be hosted by the Dorthy Pecaut Nature Center until May 11. Thursday's opening featured a soup dinner and a speech by Ron Andrews, a state furbearer biologist.

The self-guided display features two full-sized cougars and a handful of kittens. The exhibit has been roaming through Iowa for two years since it started in the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in California 10 years ago. The display also features a large-scale cougar tongue, with hair pins sticking out to replicate its texture.

The exhibit is ideal for class field trips or for families outings and is expected to rival the live bee hive as the center's most popular attraction, said Dawn Chapman, director at the Nature Center.

Most people believe the cougar is an aggressive, dangerous animal, but you'd win the lottery before you get attacked by a cougar, Chapman said.

"There's a mystique about an animal that can hurt you. We want to try and dispel the myths," Chapman said. "It's not it's natural behavior to seek out and harm people."

Cougars used to be seen across North America, and there have been sporadic cougar sightings in the area. Siouxlanders now have a chance to get more educated about how mountain lions live. The exhibit includes dioramas of actual mountain lions.

"It's always one of those things. Are they here or aren't they here?" Chapman said.

It's also important to know that cougars' behavior may change as their habitats get smaller with more houses being built around their roaming areas.

Teachers or groups interested in scheduling visits to the exhibit can call 712-258-0838 for more information. 13565eafb085cba28625728b000539a1.txt

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