Mountain Lion installed in Hall of Nebraska Wildlife
Morrill Hall's very first mountain lion has been installed in the Niobrara Diorama in the Hall of Nebraska Wildlife. Thanks to the devoted fundraising efforts of the Friends of the State Museum, the Museum was able to complete the first stage of renovation of the Niobrara Diorama. This diorama formerly was known as the "Elk Diorama" and has a mural with elk in the background. The new star of the scene, of course, is the mountain lion that was graciously transferred to the State Museum by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The transfer was completed under the auspices of the Nebraska Mountain Lion Response Plan. This policy states that once the Agency purposes of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have been satisfied, a mountain lion carcass in our state is to be offered in order of preference first to the State Museum, and, if refused, then to another accredited museum, or a research or other educational facility. Our mountain lion was killed on the highway November 6, 2005; it was hit near the Interstate 80 Gretna Exit. The Museum contracted with Todd Kranau of Blue Hill, Nebraska, for the taxidermy mount.
In February 2008, Larkin Powell and Viviane Henaux, wildlife ecologists in UNL's School of Natural Resources, reported that chemical analysis of isotopes in our mountain lion's claw showed that it probably came out of the Black Hills of South Dakota and made its way across northeast Nebraska, possibly along the Missouri or Elkhorn Rivers. As the mountain lion roamed eastward, the chemistry of the water it drank and that of the animals that were its prey were reflected in his claws as they grew. By comparing the chemistry of the tip of the claw (the oldest part) with the root (the most recent), the UNL wildlife biologists could reconstruct the general direction of its travel to eastern Nebraska. The Niobrara River lies in the general area of the state where the scientists mapped the possible routes that the mountain lion may have followed, so it is especially appropriate to place the animal in the Niobrara Diorama of our Hall of Wildlife.
The provision of the wonderful new mountain lion specimen for exhibition in Morrill Hall is yet another example of the close partnership we enjoy with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Not only are they are our partners at our branch museums at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park and our Trailside Museum of Natural History at Fort Robinson State Park, but there is also a close working relationship between Game and Parks and the Zoology Division of the State Museum, promoting research, outreach, and education to enhance public understanding and appreciation of Nebraska's remarkable wildlife.