Girl Scout team builds mountain lion structure

Stephanie Vos (center, in black jacket) with some of her assembly team.

For her Girl Scout gold project, Stephanie Vos, a junior at Forest Lake High School, chose to help the Wildlife Science Center in her home town of Columbus.

Vos has already earned the bronze and silver awards in projects with Troop 52070. But the gold award, the highest award in Girl Scouts, is an individual project that addresses an issue important to the Scout.

The Wildlife Science Center is a non-profit training, teaching, conservation and research facility that is home to wolves, wildcats, and birds of prey.

Stephanie’s project has two parts. First, she is leading a team in building a structure for two female mountain lions.

The cats came to the Wildlife Science Center after a hunter inadvertently got between a mother and her cubs while hunting in Wyoming state. When the mother reacted, the hunter felt forced to shoot her.

Instead of making the cubs into pets or leaving them to fend for themselves, he contacted the local wildlife authorities in Wyoming. The cubs ended up at the Wildlife Science Center and are now about 2 1/2 years old.

The structure has two hammocks for the cats to nap in and a connecting deck. It will provide shade in the summer.

The plan also calls for a pipe set between two posts with a tire-shaped toy for the lions to chase, plus a large ball. The toys were specially ordered from a company that makes enrichment products for zoo animals. They have a built-in filters to add scents to entice the cats to play.

At the first attempt to build the structure, on Oct. 6, the cats were uncooperative. They had recently eaten a big meal and were not attracted by the food in their holding pen. The team tried again on Oct. 13.

This time the cats shifted to the holding pen. Stephanie chose a spot that could accommodate the structure without disturbing young trees. The team worked quickly to get the cats back in their pen as soon as possible. They finished in a little over two hours.

The project was made possible by donations from Aggressive Hydraulics, the Columbus Lions Club, the Forest Lake Rotary Club, the Linwood Senior Advisory Board, and Stephanie’s grandparents, Greg and Ardyth Vos.

The second part of the project is in the planning phase, but will likely be a curriculum for visitor groups or a study packet for school groups to take back to class after visiting the cats.

Stephanie’s Scout project was put on hold last summer while the 17-year-old drove her mother, Kathy Vos, to daily radiation treatments. She now hopes to finish by the spring of 2013.