Grandfather Mtn Habitat Enhancements

Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, has added behind-the-scenes habitat cameras and a new kiosk with television screens at its cougar overlook, enhancing visitors’ experience and their chance to see these elusive animals.

Cougars are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dusk and dawn, and they spend a large portion of the day sleeping. Grandfather’s resident cougars, Logan and Trinity, follow this same pattern and are typically most active first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. In addition, the cougars are elusive and shy toward park guests, often choosing to sleep or lounge in sections of the habitat that can’t be seen by the public.

Several departments within the organization collaborated to develop and install the elements of this project that debuted in late May at Grandfather’s Mildred the Bear Environmental Habitats. Four new cameras were installed in the cougars’ habitat in locations that would be most likely to provide views of the feline “hide-and-seek champions,” but also not interfere with the animals’ behavior and well-being.

The live video footage is displayed at a new informational kiosk at the cougar habitat overlook that all park guests can access. Two television screens rotate through the different camera feeds from the habitat, providing scenes never seen by guests before, such as the cougars sleeping in their den boxes. These new views will also supplement the park’s “Keeper Talk” daily program at the cougar overlook, as well as guided group tours through the habitats. The video footage is not accessible as a livestream outside of the park or on the internet. Christie Tipton, animal habitats curator for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, said the new feature is a “game changer” for guests.

“The cougar kiosk greatly enhances guests’ experience at the cougar habitat by allowing them to see the animals even when they are not visible from the overlook,” said Tipton. “This was evident by our first weekend with the kiosk up and running, as the guests who visited the habitat were thrilled to be able to view the cougars on the screens.”

Bob and Susan Wilson, two individuals with strong connections to Grandfather’s resident cougars, made this special project possible, providing the idea and the funding. The couple’s connection to the cougar siblings, Logan and Trinity, started in 2016, when they offered their plane for the trip to Idaho to pick up and transport the animals to their new home at Grandfather. The Wilsons were also the naming donors of Grandfather’s Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, opened the summer of 2022 as part of the mountain’s Conservation Campus.

Also connected to this project is the High Country Charitable Foundation. The local philanthropic organization, with the mission to empower and uplift those in need by supporting community agencies that offer essential services, provided funding for the construction of new cougar den boxes. The foundation has a long history of support for organizations that promote the safety and well-being of animals.

The previous den boxes had endured the elements and wear and tear from the cougars for many years. The new dens are an upgrade, with more space at the back of the boxes, which helps shelter the cougars from inclement weather. The structures were constructed out of wood and durable hardware and have aluminum doors, providing the cougars with insulated and fully weatherproof habitats.

Construction of these dens began in November 2023 and was completed this April. The location is very similar to the original den location, making the adjustment less disruptive for Trinity and Logan. While the cougars were curious and slightly apprehensive about the change to their dens, they settled into them nicely after a couple of days.

“We’re grateful for the generosity of the High Country Charitable Foundation, which has enabled us to enhance the comfort and safety of our resident cougars, and to Bob and Susan Wilson for their vision and support to install the new cameras and kiosk,” said Margaret Thiele, vice president of development for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “These additions increase the ability of our keepers to monitor and care for the cougars while expanding opportunities available to guests to observe them.”

To learn more about Logan and Trinity, visit www.grandfather.com/cougars-2.

For information on things to see at Grandfather Mountain’s environmental habitats, visit www.grandfather.com/visit/things-to-do/wildlife-habitats.

The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world through education, exploration and example. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com.

 

Logan and Trinity_Photo by Monty Combs_Courtesy of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation: