AP NEWS

Grandfather Mountain mourns death of popular blue-eyed cougar

March 28, 2019

Grandfather Mountain is mourning the loss of Aspen, a blue-eyed western cougar and longtime resident of the North Carolina nature park.

Aspen lived in the park’s natural wildlife habitat and was popular with staff and visitors, according to a Facebook post. Grandfather Mountain posted that Aspen was euthanized on Monday following a tooth-removal surgery that was “also intended to diagnose some other ailments.” The cougar was held on 24-hour observation but quickly deteriorated, according to the post.

According to the park, Aspen was 15 years old. The average lifespan for a western cougar in the wild is 13 years.

“Aspen was such a great ambassador of his species and for Grandfather Mountain,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundatiom. “Everyone that met him was in awe of his gentle nature and his interest in meeting those who visited with him.”

Park staff said everyone who met Aspen was charmed by his bright blue eyes, which most cougars lose in adulthood.

“No matter where he was in the habitat, as soon as he saw his keeper friends at the overlook or on the other side of the fence, he would light up and start calling to them immediately,” chief habitats curator Christie Tipton said. “He loved purring and ‘talking’ to his keepers every morning, and he loved meeting (most) new people, making new friends and playing chase games with the smallest of them.”