Opening of Zoo Welcome Center and Cougar Exhibit Moved to September

Current cougar exhibit at the Wildwood Zoo.

Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) The new cougar exhibit and Welcome Center at Wildwood Zoo originally slated for a July opening has been tentatively pushed back to September 15.

The delay was due to construction documents which took longer than expected to complete and the difficulty in finding the right firm that could do animal caging.

“This type of work is not customary for most architecture or engineering firms, so you have to find a specialty firm,” said Justin Casperson, Parks and Recreation Director. “It took us a little longer than expected to find one of those firms that was qualified to do the work.”

Enclosure fencing for animal exhibits is designed with safety in mind.

“You can’t put a fence up like you would a ball field or a house,” said Casperson. “Animal caging is pretty important. We don’t want the animal out, and we don’t want the humans in. We want to make that is done correctly.”

The project is currently out for bid through Design Unlimited. Once a contractor is secured, the project timeline will depend on how quickly the work can be completed and the availability of building materials.

Ideally, the project would begin sooner than later.

“We’re hoping that we can move quite quickly,” said Casperson. “We want to make sure we take our time and do things right. It’s easier to change things on paper than it is to get concrete saws out and rebuild something you already put a lot of time and effort into. Taking time up front saves taxpayers a lot of dollars down the road. Always making sure you have all of your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted before you go out to bid is important.”

Fundraising for the $500,000 Welcome Center/Cougar Exhibit and $200,000 water education table inside saw majority completion last fall. Almost ten times larger than the old cougar exhibit, the new design incorporates natural surfaces and enrichment opportunities. The two cougars, Thunder and Star, first came to the zoo in the fall of 2008 and will turn 11 in May.

The new Welcome Center will host an internal exhibit of small animals that could be used for zoo education, such as snakes and the zoo’s resident box turtle, according to Zookeeper Steve Burns.

Additionally, the Welcome Center will have an internal handling area for the cougars and ADA accessible bathrooms. A water education table is currently in the design process through Boss Display. Once completed, it will be housed inside the Welcome Center.