Maturango ’Feed the Kitty’ fund needs you

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Maturango ’Feed the Kitty’ fund needs youThe mountain lion exhibit at the Maturango Museum is becoming famous and is drawing visitors to the museum. However, it’s not fully paid for yet. The “Feed the Kitty” fund still needs about $3,000.

In order to get the exhibit completed, funds were borrowed from a different budget “pocket,” and now they need to be paid back.

The lion came to the museum originally as road kill, rescued in 2008 by an alert biologist in Wrightwood, Calif. Former Natural History Curator Camille Anderson took the project on, and the process of getting permission to keep the lion led to a bureaucratic struggle that was finally solved by state Sen. Jean Fuller — and that will benefit museums and other educational institutions across the state.

Because of Department of Fish and Game regulations, the lion was on bureaucratic “hold” in Anderson’s curatorial freezer. Even frozen, however, no dead animal remains in preservable condition forever. Fuller introduced new legislation that the California legislature unanimously passed in 2011 allowing the museum to keep and display the lion.

After the four-year battle to keep the lion, it was finally turned over to Tehachapi Taxidermist Mike Dorner to be prepared for display. Dorner, who regularly applies his artistry to Maturango Museum projects, was simultaneously working on a ground squirrel, also road kill. To disguise the fatal injuries of both animals, Dorner posed the lion so its damaged area faces the back of the display. The ground squirrel is posed so its ruined back legs don’t show.

“Look for the little ground squirrel coming out of a hole in the rock, down at a three-year-old’s eye level,” said History Curator Elizabeth Babcock. “We love thinking about the probability that our youngest viewers will be the first to discover this little creature.”

The Plexiglas enclosure is another chapter in the lion’s saga. Many museum volunteers were involved with this process. Thom Boggs paid $2,300 for the Plexiglas. Ron Atkins paid the cost of the rental truck to go to Tehachapi to pick up the lion and its display elements. Dan and Brenda Burnett paid the cost of the rental truck and gas to go to San Diego and back to bring the Plexiglas to the Museum.

Several chief petty officers-select and Atkins, Peter Wiley, Harris Brokke and Boggs removed the old petroglyph display to make room for the lion. Bob Westbrook and Gary Babcock also helped move and install the cumbersome Plexiglas case, which fit beautifully, thanks to some careful measuring by Boggs.

“The case was taller than the doors,” said Boggs. “The sheets of Plexiglas were six feet by six feet eight inches and two inches deep, and altogether weighed 225 pounds. Each sheet is half an inch thick. We had to bring it in through the new section of the Museum.

“We cleaned the Plexiglas inside and out, and lifted the panels onto the wooden pedestal and fitted it with molding inside and out to hold it in place.”

Although Fuller and other invited visitors saw the big cat at the opening-night reception for the Museum’s 50th anniversary in October, “Kitty” was sans protection until the completed case arrived a few weeks later, so she was locked in the curators’ area for safekeeping. The completed exhibit now has many fans.

“A lot of people have gone to the museum just to see the lion,” said Boggs. “Lots of out-of-town visitors have commented that the whole display looks very professional, with the lion in that unusual pose.”

His granddaughter, Roxanne Boggs, 6, got her first view of the lion head-on. “Her eyes got really big and she said, ‘Oooooooohhh, that’s a big cat!’ My other grandchildren saw the lion at Thanksgiving and thought it was really neat.”

While the total $8,000 cost for the display seems high, it would have been much higher without all the donations of money, labor, time and love already given by the crew of volunteers.

To donate to the “Feed the Kitty” fund, either visit the museum located at 100 E. Las Flores Ave. or see the website at www.maturango.org. Click on the prompt for the “Feed the Kitty” fund and click on “Donate Now.” That gets you to more information about the display, with additional photos of the process. There will be a different tab to click for the actual donation process.

The Maturango Museum is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 760-375-6900.

Story First Published: 2012-11-28