WNC Nature Center opens new cougar exhibit

The WNC Nature Center opened its new cougar exhibit over the weekend, delighting a crowd of visitors who came to be part of the event. The exhibit, featuring two eight-month old cougars acquired from Oregon, is the latest in a series of improvements the center is making to enhance the exhibits for both visitors and the animals.

The cougars arrived at the WNC Nature Center in September and have since been gradually acclimated to their new surroundings and the presence of people. This is the first time since 2007 that cougars have been exhibited at the WNC Nature Center, and over the past months, modifications were made to the exhibit to accommodate the younger, more agile animals, says center Director Chris Gentile.

The remodel included the replacement of 6,000 square feet of fencing with a woven steel mesh, which is lighter and allows for a better viewing experience by the public. The mesh, stronger than conventional chain link, is being used by zoos around the world, Gentile says, and has also replaced fencing in the center’s bobcat exhibit.

The cougar exhibit opened April 30, and was greeted by a performance by the Asheville High Cougar Pep Band in the center’s parking lot and a dance and prayer by Bo Spenser, a member of the Cherokee Nation. Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy cut the ribbon officially opening the exhibit.

The revamped cougar exhibit is just one of many recent and upcoming improvements for the WNC Nature Center. The new Otter Falls exhibit opened in April, and renovations for the red wolf and coyote exhibits are planned to begin in the near future.

The WNC Nature Center also recently announced the launch of its new website, which gives visitors information on hours and pricing, animals on exhibit, and educational and conservation programs. The site features of calendar of events, information on each of the Center’s 60 indigenous species, and online enrollment in programs and summer camps. Check it out at www.wncnaturecenter.com.

The WNC Nature Center’s mission is to increase public awareness and understanding of the natural environment of Western North Carolina. Featuring over 150 animals including otters, black bear and red wolf, the Center is open from 10:00 – 5:00 daily.

The Center is operated by the City of Asheville and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).