Swaner EcoCenter welcomes ‘Mountain Lion!’
When members of the public visit the Swaner EcoCenter this weekend, they will notice a big change.
Instead of the wetlands displays, the space will feature a new exhibit — "Mountain Lion!" said Nell Larson, executive director of the Swaner EcoCenter.
"The exhibit will replace all the other exhibits that have been on display at the Swaner EcoCenter for a few years," Larson told The Park Record. "The EcoCenter will feel totally different when people walk into the doors, because what the community is used to seeing are off in storage."
"Mountain Lion" is an engaging exhibit that is not just comprised of standard informational panels, according to Larson.
"There are a lot of unique pieces including Native-American art, two incredibly lifelike dioramas that show mountain lions and an area where you can listen to different sounds the mountain lions make," she said.
In addition, the exhibit features an array of artifacts and a pop-culture section that features some entertaining visuals of the way the cougar has been depicted over the years.
On Friday, Nov. 14, the EcoCenter will host a special exhibit-opening reception for its members from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. The speaker will be John Shivik, author of "The Predator Paradox," who has studied mountain lions in Utah for years.
The exhibit originated at the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, Larson said.
"They designed the exhibit, so the curator and the people who prepared it are here installing it," she said. "The world of traveling exhibits are new to us and this will mark the first time the EcoCenter will display one. We are incredibly excited to show it."
The EcoCenter’s opportunity to show the exhibit came through a partnership.
"Holly Strand at the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State University heard of it and went to visit it," Larson said. "She was so impressed with it that when she came back to Utah, she thought it would be a great fit in our state. We talked with her and the Center of Southwest Studies to make it happen."
The exhibit is timely because of the recent sightings of mountain lions in and around the Park City area, Larson explained.
"The minute Holly mentioned an exhibit about mountain lions, I got really excited because there is a pretty intense interest of these animals in our community, especially with the number of sightings that we have here," she said. "And the rise in sightings isn’t unique to Park City. There has been an increase in sightings and encounters throughout the West."
There have even been a few sightings of mountain lions on the Swaner Preserve.
"Every year or two, neighbors step forth and tells us they have seen cougars on the preserve or its periphery," Larson said. "I, unfortunately, haven’t been lucky enough to see one, but everyone we have told about the exhibit have relayed some sort of experience, whether it was seeing one in the backyard yesterday, which happened a few days ago.
"We also heard that one has been sighted up in Pinebrook," she said. "Also, people in Samak have expressed their concerns, because they are worried they’re going to hit one on the roads."
In addition to the interest, Larson thinks there is a certain amount of fear and safety concerns regarding mountain lions.
"The exhibit addresses living peacefully and safely around mountain lions as well," she said. "It doesn’t just give a history of the animal."
Larson believes the rise in sightings is the result of business developments and new-home construction pushing the mountain lion out of their habitats.
"I think that we’re not just pushing them out of habitat, but more people are living within mountain lion habitats," she said. "When you live in an area that is home to mountain lion prey, such as deer, there are chances that the mountain lions will come into the area.
"One of the other things we want to do with this exhibit is to bring the content to the east side of the county," Larson said. "The reason is because mountain lions are not just relevant to the Park City or Snyderville area of the basin. They are relevant to the whole area."
The Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, will offer a sneak preview of its new Mountain Lion exhibit to members on Friday, Nov. 14, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. The exhibit, which will replace the EcoCenter’s current displays through the end of March, will be open to the public starting Saturday, Nov. 15. For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.
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