Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Cougar Petting Zoo sparks outrage, controversy, but plenty of fun

Twisp, WA
The recent opening of “Wittle Wild Kitties Petting Farm and Learnin’ Zone” across from Gifford Pinchot Middle School has generated quite the buzz in this usually sleepy eastern Cascade town. While hundreds of children are literally bursting (yes…literally…I witnessed it) with glee at a chance to both tease and interact with the predators, more than a few parents have voiced their concerns over the new business.

For the father of 3rd grader Curtis “Freckles” Horace, there are quite a few questions that need to answered before he’ll grant his son permission to visit the Chevron parking lot turned petting farm. “I’d like to know what’s bein taught in that Learnin’ Zone,” said Michael Horace. “If Freckles comes back talkin about monkeys turnin into people, or healthcare, there’s gonna be problems.”

So far, the business has proven to be a financial windfall for owner/operator/trainer/learnin zone chief George Jenkins. And he isn’t being shy about downplaying the concerns voiced by others.

“Think of it like this,” said Jenkins. “If butterflies didn’t exist, cougars would be nature’s butterflies. We only call them cougars because butterflies exist and are already taking that name. You see my point? And if if’s and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.”

Aside from the ability to interact with the wild mountain lions, the $10 admission also includes two saltine snack crackers, a complimentary mouse for live feeding, as well as a “poking stick” designed for encouraging less-than-willing cougars to participate.

“Our motto is FUN, FUN, safety, FUN, and FUN,” said Jenkins. “Because you can have big fun with cougars, as long as there’s a little safety in the middle.”

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