A cougar finds a permanent home at Popcorn Park Zoo: Part 1

A cougar finds a permanent home at Popcorn Park Zoo: Part 1


A cougar named Dolly finds a permanent home at Popcorn Park Zoo: Part 1

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Happy ending stories are well worth telling in a world where so many animals suffer through no fault of their own. What follows is Dolly’s story. Dolly is a cougar who through many transitions has finally found her forever home at Popcorn Park Zoo, as told by John Bergmann, Director of Popcorn Park, and staff contributors.


A cougar finds a permanent home at Popcorn Park Zoo: Part 1


Meet Dolly, the cougar who finally made her way to her new forever home at Popcorn Park Zoo.



Eighteen years ago, a mother mountain lion was shot and killed in Colorado. Her cubs were taken and sold in the pet trade, a horrible circumstance that happens all too often. One particular cub was bought by a woman who thought she would make a great pet. One year later, the woman moved to Maine with a cub she named Dolly, a cub who quickly outgrew the woman’s ability to care for her. When Maine authorities found out about Dolly, they confiscated the illegally kept cougar and handed her over to Walt Libby, who ran a small roadside zoo in Lincoln, Maine. Here she was kept in a basement like environment with no windows, and she was never allowed to go outside.

When Maine Fish and Wildlife Division started enforcing regulations on these horrific, rundown roadside zoos, Libby decided that it wasn’t worth upgrading Dolly’s living quarters, and she was sent to the Howell Rehab Center in Amity, Maine. When Dolly arrived there, just being outside and in the sun frightened her, as she never really had the opportunity to experience it before. At 12 years old, she finally began to enjoy the outdoors. The Howell center is located in the extreme north of Maine where winters are bitterly cold. Because of the conditions she endured earlier on in her life, Dolly suffers from arthritis and as a result this northern climate became very painful and debilitating to her.

At the Howell Center she needed to walk up two platforms to get to the ramp that would take her to her area outside. In November of 2012, with her age and along with some other issues, it became harder for her to walk the ramp, and she could not use the outside enclosure. The keepers did the best they could for her. They provided her with her favorite beef and poultry cuts and hid glucosamine and other joint supplements in her diet, hoping they would help. Under the circumstances, they kept her den very clean, but they knew another place had to be found to better care for her needs as she aged.

Popcorn Park received a call in late January from Derek Small of The W.I.L.D. Center in New Hampshire to find out if they would be interested in helping Dolly. He had been in contact with Richard Hoppe from Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Division, and they needed help finding a sanctuary where she would have better specialized vet care and a climate controlled, inside-den area. Popcorn Park made a den ready to accommodate her and started to make plans to pick up Dolly.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Dolly’s story.

Popcorn Park Zoo is located at Humane Way at Lacey Road, P.O. Box 43, Forked River, NJ 08731-0043. Telephone: 609-693-1900.

Established in 1977, Popcorn Park is a sanctuary for abandoned, injured, ill, exploited, abused and elderly wildlife, exotics, farm animals and birds. It is part of the Associated Humane Societies, the largest animal sheltering system in New Jersey. The Society is a not for profit, 501(c)3 organization, and Popcorn Park is a federally licensed zoo. Read more about them on their website here.

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