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Video: A saber-toothed cat struts across Wilshire to the La Brea Tar Pits

The Natural History Museum's giant saber-toothed cat puppet walked along Wilshire toward the Page Museum on Friday, Sept. 7.
The Natural History Museum's giant saber-toothed cat puppet walked along Wilshire toward the Page Museum on Friday, Sept. 7. Page Museum via NBC LA

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. 

PERFORMANCES

Ice Age Encounters at Page Museum 

Wednesdays and Saturdays | 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m.

VIDEO

With contributions by Tony Pierce

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