December 4, 2012
If you saw a deer-shaped figure roaming the night sky in November, don’t be alarmed, said Cougar Mountain Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot, it was just Santa’s reindeer getting some flying practice in before their big day.
But now Santa’s reindeer are done practicing and ready to meet with local residents at the Cougar Mountain Zoo’s 24th annual Reindeer Festival.
While the zoo is technically closed during the month of December, the zoo eagerly plays host to the festival that attracts more than 10,000 visitors every year, Barfoot said.
“It provides a really great opportunity for people to do something with their families during the day and kind of get everyone in the feel of the holidays,” she said.
June 5, 2012
As Issaquah celebrated its very best at the 33rd annual Chamber of Commerce Community Awards, two residents — celebrated for their lasting contributions to the community — were inducted into Issaquah’s Hall of Fame on May 31.
Barbara de Michele and Master Sgt. Richard “Top” DeMarco received top honors at the May 31 ceremony, which included recognition for Issaquah’s finest in 18 categories, including awards for standout volunteers, businesses leaders, organizations and youth.
Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said the Hall of Fame awards were based on several criteria, including inspiration, leadership, civic mindedness, fundraising efforts for public good and length of service to the community.
None more so affected by the awardees are Issaquah’s youth.
May 1, 2012
Beloved cougar cubs Keira, Miksa and Tika turn 1 on May 20 and to celebrate the milestone, Cougar Mountain Zoo is — please, pardon the pun — planning a wild party.
The party doubles as a fundraiser for the zoo, a nonprofit organization, and The Beat, The Issaquah Press’ section by, for and about teenagers. Zoogoers can watch as the curious cubs tear open gifts and dig into special birthday cakes made from meat.
“Cougar cubs love to destroy things, so we are creating special birthday boxes for them to do just that!” zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said.
In the months since the cubs arrived at the zoo, Keira, Miksa and Tika grew from tiny tufts of spotted fur into regal big cats.
In addition to supporting the popular cougar exhibit at the zoo, a percentage of all ticket sales benefits The Beat, to help pay for the section’s pages in The Press.
January 24, 2012
The macaws retreated inside to toastier temperatures. The tigers tolerated the cold. The reindeer, unsurprisingly, reveled in the snow.
Though most Issaquah residents experienced a snow day Jan. 18, a major snowstorm did not disrupt the routine for the denizens of Cougar Mountain Zoo.
“The animals don’t care that it’s snowing outside and we don’t want to get out of bed,” General Curator Robyn Barfoot said. “They need us and that is our driving force.”
The rare Bengal tigers Almos, Bagheera, Taj and Vitez lounge in heated enclosures if the mercury falls. Some species — such as colorful macaws and other birds from tropical climates — spend cold days inside and off display. Other animals carouse in the cold temperatures and deep snow.
January 18, 2012
NEW — 8 p.m. Jan. 18, 2012
The macaws retreat inside to toastier temperatures. The tigers tolerate the cold. The reindeer, unsurprisingly, revel in the snow.
Though most Issaquah residents experienced a snow day Wednesday, a major snowstorm did not disrupt the routine for the denizens of Cougar Mountain Zoo.
December 20, 2011
He may be only 5 months old, but he already weighs 84 pounds and is about three and half feet tall at his shoulders.
Especially as this is the holiday time of year, he has made numerous personal appearances at Christmas tree lightings and similar events, said Robyn Barfoot, general curator of the Cougar Mountain Zoological Park.
The toddler in question, however, probably is not going to be caught sitting on Santa’s lap.
Instead, Rogue the reindeer already is harness trained and ready to help pull Santa’s sleigh, Barfoot said.
“Santa likes to refer to him as ‘Blitzen,’” Barfoot added.
Rogue even already has his own Christmas song. The private Cougar Mountain Academy is near the zoo. Teachers and children there have come up with a version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” using Rogue’s name, Barfoot said.
November 29, 2011
First held in 1988, the annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival runs Dec. 1-23 at the Cougar Mountain Zoo.
Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said the event regularly attracts up to 10,000 visitors. Some travel relatively long distances to make it to the festival, even coming from well east of the Cascades.
“It’s a family tradition for many people,” Barfoot said.
Although the zoo is technically closed for the season, 10 of Santa’s reindeer team will be ready and awaiting visitors daily.
At the Magic Forest, visitors can hand feed the South American reindeer. And among numerous other activities, kids and parents also can visit Santa in his house and get a picture with the jolly old elf.
Visitors can also listen to stories read by an elf, see Santa’s sleigh, shop and pick up hot drinks and snacks. The younger set also can write a letter to Santa and then place it in his personal mailbox.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Santa will take a lunch break roughly from 1-1:30 p.m. daily. Pictures with Santa are $15 for the first shot and $10 for additional shots. You can take your own pictures for a fee.
October 25, 2011
Issaquah leaders often describe local qualities as treasures — a quaint downtown, mountain panoramas, historic buildings and more.
Local businesspeople describe such attractions as “tourism assets” all set for out-of-town guests to enjoy and, in the process, spend dollars in hotels and restaurants.
Issaquah Chamber of Commerce officials gathered representatives from local “tourism assets” Oct. 18 to discuss successes and opportunities to lure more tourists to the area.
Leaders from artEAST, Cougar Mountain Zoo, Village Theatre, and other Issaquah attractions and events, said attendance is strong, but sometimes people overlook local offerings.
“Tastin’ N Racin’ — unfortunately — is Issaquah’s best-kept secret,” event organizer Craig Cooke said. “Nationally, it’s not. There are events in 13 other states that have all called and patterned their event on what goes on on land and what goes on in water.”
Tastin’ N Racin’ attracts 20,000 people — and sometimes up to 50,000 — to Lake Sammamish State Park each June for hydroplane races and onshore offerings.
Other long-established attractions face a similar challenge in luring potential tourists.
August 23, 2011
After undergoing surgery at a clinic in Kirkland, Issaquah’s Tasha, a 3-month-old baby cougar, is back home at the Cougar Mountain Zoo and, according to zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot, is doing very well.
Tasha underwent surgery Aug. 17 to repair a congenital defect that was preventing her from eating solid foods.
“She’s running around and purring,” Barfoot said just two days after the surgery. “Actually, she’s purring an awful lot … She doesn’t seem fazed by any of this at all.”
Veterinarian Michael Mison led Tasha’s surgery at Seattle Veterinary Specialists.
“There were no complications during surgery,” Mison said. “I’m happy to report that Tasha is recovering nicely. We expect her to have a long and healthy life.”
SVS veterinarians diagnosed Tasha with what’s termed a vascular ring anomaly or defect on Aug. 10. Barfoot said keepers had noticed Tasha wasn’t keeping down much food, but at first attributed her vomiting to rough play. Normally, Tasha lives with two other cougar cubs. When Tasha’s problem persisted, Barfoot said zoo officials took her for tests at SVS where vets diagnosed the vascular defect.
According to information released by the clinic, vascular ring anomalies form before an animal is born when embryonic blood vessels develop abnormally.
June 28, 2011
Months after Cougar Mountain Zoo’s iconic cougar Nashi died, keepers unveiled a trio of month-old cougar cubs June 23.
The cubs — one male and two females born May 20 — should go on display July 16. In the meantime, zoogoers might see the cubs during unscheduled public appearances after July 1.
“The cubs are absolutely adorable! They are extremely playful and curious about everything,” zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said in a news release. “I can’t wait to bring them home and introduce them to our zoo visitors.”
Barfoot and Senior Keeper Sasha Puskar picked up the then-2-pound cubs at a Wisconsin zoo.
The cubs replace Nashi, a longtime denizen at the nonprofit zoo. Nashi died in February at age 17. Keepers started the search for cougar cubs soon after.
The zoo lacked a namesake big cat in the months since Nashi’s death.
“We are still recovering from losing Nashi this past February. He was an incredible and iconic cougar,” Barfoot said. “With the addition of these new cubs, our hearts are happy again. The cubs have a lot to live up to, but so far, they are doing a fantastic job. They are healthy, happy cubs and I think our visitors will give them a wonderful welcome.”