Contact: Sue Nass 334-2633
On Thursday morning, a mountain lion will begin a second life teaching Idaho school children about wildlife. At 9 AM, Bruce Wiegers will present a taxidermy mount of a young mountain lion to Fish and Game Commissioner Don Clower in a kindergarten class at Valley View Elementary School. In the process, the Boise man turns a somewhat tragic situation from two years ago into a positive educational experience today.
It was June 13, 1998 when Wiegers discovered the big cat in his west Boise backyard. His two dogs had been barking relentlessly and when he tried to bring them into the house, the smaller dog refused to cooperate. That is when Wiegers looked up into the tree and saw the young male lion. It was his first encounter with a wild cougar and he was thrilled but concerned about pets, people and the lion itself. Moreover, several young children lived in the neighborhood, making it a safety issue. So Andy Wiegers, Bruce's wife, called 911 for help.
The Ada County Sheriff's office responded to the call. For three hours, they tried to find a way to dart the animal with a drug to remove it from the neighborhood and back to the wild, but dusk had arrived and officials were reluctant to dart the mountain lion. Attempting to track the animal in the darkness would be difficult and dangerous. Suddenly, at 11:15 PM it leaped from the tree and authorities had no choice but to shoot it.
It was a devastating moment for the Wiegers. Both husband and wife have a strong interest in wildlife. Bruce has designed their property to be a wildlife sanctuary, and Andy is a teacher who incorporates wildlife education in her classrooms and has also gone through Fish and Game's Project WILD program for teachers. So they sought a way to turn the death of the young lion into something positive.
It was decided that they would foot the thousand dollar bill to have the lion mounted by a taxidermist and then donate it to Fish and Game's popular program for schools called "Nose to Nose". Wildlife Educator Adare Evans travels the state with taxidermy animals and conducts programs for school children explaining habitat, predator-prey relationships and wild animal behavior.
This week, in a kindergarten class, the young lion will launch its second life as a part of wildlife education.