This morning, I met with Steve Foltz, Director of Horticulture, to talk about the landscaping plan along the paths that lead visitors from the main path to the Night Hunters building and then from the building towards the cougar exhibit (which will open later this year). I’ve been focused on the inside of Night Hunters so it was great to catch up with the outdoor plans.
The interpretive experience begins before you actually enter the building. The picture above is taken from the perspective of a visitor walking along the main Zoo path coming from Monkey Island. Imagine the green fence is gone, of course. A waterfall cascading down the rock wall into a small pool on the left side draws your attention and invites you in. Passing the exhibit site sign (exact location to be determined), you’ll follow a curved path through a stand of conifers (to be planted).
As you approach the building entrance, you’ll walk underneath a trellis (yet to be constructed) that prepares you to enter into the dark building.
One of the challenges to renovating an existing landscape is to protect and save as many trees as you can. We often think of trees as inanimate structures and that they’ll be fine as long as we don’t cut them down or run them over. In fact, trees are sensitive to what’s going on around them and it’s especially important to consider how construction affects their root systems.
You exit the building in the same space in which you entered. Once the cougar exhibit opens later this summer or fall, you’ll turn left out of the building and follow a short path to the viewing window.
Here, native woodland trees such as maples, oaks, and maybe hemlocks will dominate the landscape. They provide shade as well as continue the feel of immersion in a wild place where wild beings are most certainly watching you from their hiding places.
Look up! Chances are you are being watched by the one who watches. Peshewa is one of the many different names cougars go by and it means “one who watches”. This Native American name accurately describes the cougar’s hunting strategy of watching and waiting for just the right opportunity to leap and pounce on prey passing by. Once the exhibit is ready, our two male cougar cubs, Joseph and Tecumseh, will be able to show off the leaping and pouncing skills they’ve been practicing here.