February 20, 2018

EcoTarium adding mountain lion exhibit

Courtesy
A model of the planned Wild Cat Station at the EcoTarium, for which construction is slated to start in April.

The EcoTarium will begin construction in April on a new $3-million mountain lion exhibit where the Worcester children's and natural history museum once had a polar bear exhibit.

The 44,000-square-foot space will be mostly outdoors, with a rocky terrain meant to evoke the natural habitat of mountain lions and a larger area able to accommodate large school groups. The museum is hoping to get two siblings, but isn't yet sure when they may arrive, said Kerry Castorano, the EcoTarium's director of institutional advancement.

Called Wild Cat Station, the exhibit is slated to be complete in October and is part of the museum's move toward featuring animals that are found in New England, and the EcoTarium expects it to be popular.

"We know that our animals are a big draw," Castorano said.

The polar bear exhibit was vacant for years after its last occupant died.

Wild Cat Station was made possible in part to a private-foundation donation made as a sort of parting gift for Joe Cox, the EcoTarium's president who departed in January. He left to become the president and CEO of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A $100,000 gift from the Fuller Foundation, a Worcester nonprofit whose mission includes aiding children, wildlife and the arts, helped the EcoTarium hit its fundraising goal of $8.8 million in its campaign, Castorano said. Three other improvements were funded in the latest round of fundraising: The City Science interactive exhibit, new tracks for the Explorer Express Train, and a decommissioning of a power plant the museum once relied on for electricity.

City Science, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year, includes activities that teaches children about animals, science, and sights and sounds in their own neighborhoods.

EcoTarium Trustee Patty Eppinger and Deputy Director Patricia Crawford are helping to fill in for Cox while the museum seeks his permanent replacement. The EcoTarium's attendance rose about 45 percent during Cox's six years leading the museum.

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