Cougar dies at Cougar Mountain Zoo; curator plans memorial
March 14, 2011
By Laura Geggel
NEW — 2:15 p.m. March 14, 2011
The community is invited to Cougar Mountain Zoo to honor the life of Nashi, a cougar transplanted from the woods of Minnesota to the zoo more than 17 years ago.
Nashi died from old age Feb 24. Though he had been showing signs of slowing down for the past several months, the loss was still devastating to staff, volunteers and zoo visitors, Cougar Mountain Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said.
“He was a fantastic cougar. He had a lot of spunk in him,” she said. “He enjoyed talking with the visitors every day.”
The Nashi Memorial Celebration will be at 2 p.m. March 26 at the zoo, 19525 S.E. 54th St. Instead of holding its traditional cougar lecture, the zoo will open the stage for people to talk about Nashi. Staff members who raised and worked with him will talk about his life.
“I used to joke around that he’s a rock star, because he is,” Barfoot said.
At the zoo, Nashi would model for product labels, television shows and nature documentaries.
“He actually sat in the mayor’s chair when he was a cub,” she said. “He definitely made the rounds and left a mark on many people.”
Volunteers and zoo visitors are also encouraged to share their Nashi stories, talking about how he made them feel when he chirped or purred in their presence.
“His purrs were really unique,” Barfoot said. “He had a low guttural purr and he would stick his tongue out. If you got a purr from Nashi, your day was pretty darn perfect.”
Nashi came to the zoo as a cub after he was found orphaned in Minnesota. His full name, Nashidoita, is Blackfoot Indian for Spirit of the Mountains.
“He was a great cat and everyone who worked at the zoo had a relationship with him, not just the people who worked directly with him,” Barfoot said.
The zoo’s other cougar, Merlin, died in 2008. Now that the zoo is cougar-less, it is raising money to refurbish the cougar habitat and buy new cubs. The total endeavor will cost about $10,000, Barfoot said.
“We have to do a little modification to the habitat to make it baby proof, cub proof,” she said.
People can donate to the zoo at its website or at the zoo by buying a brick or donating directly.