BUCKHANNON – The West Virginia State Wildlife Center has welcomed two large feline residents.
Two five-year-old mountain lions named Lewis and Clark made their homes at the wildlife center Sept. 19. Wildlife Biologist with the West Virginia State Wildlife Center Tyler Evans said they received the large cat brothers from the Columbus Zoo.
“They were looking for a change of scenery for them,” Evans said. “Something little bit quieter because there’s a little less stress over in this part of the country. It seemed like a pretty good fit, and they’ve been great to work with and we’re really happy to be able to welcome them here to our facility.”
Before they were at the Columbus Zoo, Evans said they were found in Montana in the aftermath of a forest fire.
“Fire crews were out there clearing lines and ended up hearing something that they wanted to investigate and came to find out that they were actually the two mountain lions and as a result, they ended up needing some pretty intensive care,” Evans said. “The Columbus Zoo stepped in and ultimately, they were able to really bring them back around to a full recovery and they’ve been doing well ever since.”
Evans said the brothers have adjusted well to their new surroundings at the center.
“They’re adjusting really well,” he said. “It’s definitely a change of pace for them here at our facility. It’s different than what they were used to seeing on a daily basis over around Columbus.”
“Fewer people come through here,” Evans added, “and it’s a much quieter scene and setting for them, so I think they’ve adjusted really well and we’re really happy that people are going to be able to come out and see them.”
He said eastern mountain lions are native to West Virginia, but the two brothers are western mountain lions. According to the U.S. Forest Service, male mountain lions like Lewis and Clark can measure up to 8 feet long and weigh between 130-150 pounds. Female mountain lions are somewhat smaller, measuring about 7 feet long and weighing in at 65-90 pounds.
“Mountain lions do have their place in West Virginia history,” Evans said. “They were historically found here, but largely eradicated around the turn of the 20th century for three reasons, the first being habitat loss. Another one was as a result of that loss of prey items. Then, a third reason was they were treated as a nuisance animal by ranchers and farmers because of the effects that they had on some of their cattle and other livestock.”
Evans said a good chance to see numerous nocturnal animals at an opportune time will be during the Spooky Night Tours that are coming up Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.
“It’s a great opportunity to see a lot of animals – not just mountain lions – at a time of the day when they are more active nocturnally and at twilight,” Evans said. “It’s definitely a good time to be able to come out and see a lot of those animals that may have been sleeping, more or less, during the early afternoon. They may be up moving around more in the evenings.”
The mountain lions are available to be seen now and the Wildlife Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but starting Nov. 1, their hours change to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.