Pedestrians and office workers in Miracle Mile thought they saw a prehistoric cat walking along Wilshire Boulevard last week. They were mostly right.
The slinky, smilodon fatalis puppet, formerly a fixture at the Natural History Museum, was making its way to the La Brea Tar Pits Page Museum where it will begin a new life on Sept 12 as the star performer in the Ice Age Encounters program.
The giant saber-toothed cat puppet, created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop in 2010, requires a human to hide inside and wear the 75-pound costume like a parachute harness. Arm stilts control two of the legs, and a second puppeteer remotely controls the robotic head making it bite, blink and roar.
After dire wolves, saber-toothed cats are the most commonly found fossil in the La Brea Tar Pits. Per the Page Museum:
- More than 2,500 cats have been discovered in the tar pits.
- The saber-toothed cat lived from about 400,000 years ago until they became extinct 11,000 years ago.
- The Southern California that the saber-toothed cat lived in was a coastal sage habitat with scattered pine and oak groves.
- The climate was cooler, like that found today in the area of the Monterey Peninsula.
- The large cat was an ambush predator well-suited to bringing down prey larger than itself.
- There is good evidence that Smilodon fatalis ate primarily bison in the area of the La Brea Tar Pits.
- Fossilized bones discovered at the tar pits indicate the cats were burly, and solidly built, about the size of today’s African lion, but built more like a Siberian tiger.
Wednesdays and Saturdays | 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m.