As strange as it may sound, at Cougar Mountain Zoo, you just might be greeted by a big cat purring. Cougars are among the largest cats capable of true purring, and Cougar Mountain Zoo boasts a distinct subspecies of these overgrown felines, which prowl all over the zoo's award-winning World of Cougars exhibit.
Next to the mountain lions dwell their distant cousins, Bengal tigers, who sprawl out on the green grass or press their noses up to a thick wall of glass separating visitors from the wild animals. Other residents of the zoo include a barrel of endangered lemurs from Madagascar, a crowd of fluffy alpacas, and the country's largest herd of reindeer, who star in the annual Reindeer Festival and deliver presents to all the other animals.
The zoo also boasts a collection of bronze animal statues, a library of wildlife tracks, and a museum that explores not only the world of wildlife, but also the threats they face from human incursion.
"The Reptile Man" Scott Petersen melds his passions for both education and reptiles at his zoo, which he calls the Serpentarium, where kids can touch or hold certain inhabitants. Inside, snakes, lizards, gators, and turtles slowly slither or amble around their enclosures, visible to curious eyes. Some of the deadliest snakes in the world?such as the horned viper?live on site, all de-venomized with only their angsty poetry left as weapons. The zoo is also home to invertebrates, including some of the planet's biggest spiders, centipedes, and cockroaches. An onsite party room hosts birthday bashes with a focus on education and absolutely no snakes hiding in the cake.
Teri and Greg Harris draw on artistic eyes honed in careers as an award-winning former photojournalist and a high-profile web designer, respectively, to capture memories at Ladybug Photography. The couple memorializes blissful weddings, cozy family scenes, and grads-to-be in black-and-white, sepia, or color portraits. Lighthearted shoots may make use of props, pets, and outfit and personality changes as subjects let their inner glow shine in-studio or at lush area parks, gardens, and beachfronts.
Years ago, Olympic Game Farm was a home for actors. The bears, cougars, and big cats who lived on the premises were all movie stars?most often for Disney Studios, which worked with and filmed the farm's animals for 28 years. The farm's founder, Lloyd Beebe, served as the go-to trainer, and his bond with the wildlife was reputedly amazing. During those early years, he even managed to tame five wolverines, who would eat raw egg out of his hands.
Today, Lloyd's grandson Robert runs the farm. For the most part, the animals are no longer film celebrities?although footage of the famous waving bears has gone viral and even appeared in a Carrie Underwood video, and some animal actors from elsewhere still retire to the farm. The majority are descendants of the original film animals, or rescues. Visitors can drive through the park to see zebras, elk, wolves, and lions, then head to the petting farm for an up-close encounter. They can even feed many of the animals?whole-grain bread is an accepted treat.
On Tashunka Farms’ nine acres, the farm border collie often greets visitors at the gate. This fuzzy welcome is par for the course at the farm and animal refuge, where two spacious arenas hold stables and horsemanship camps. Equestrian training and horse care are the facility’s bread and butter—the dedicated staff recently took in a malnourished mustang named Chance and worked to bring him back to health with food, exercise, baths, and attention. This care also extends to the motley crew of the petting farm, whether it’s to one of the fuzzy lionhead rabbits, soft chinchillas, fire-breathing chickens, or peculiar fainting goats that stiffen and fall over when they’re alarmed or excited.