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Roly-poly Little Cougar Cub at the Oregon Zoo

First time mother Cougar, Chinook, gave birth to a healthy female cub Sunday, Sept. 19 at the Oregon Zoo. According to keepers, Chinook is taking good care of her cub, which weighed around 2 pounds at birth. "The cub is an adorable, roly-poly little cat covered in dark spots," said Michelle Schireman, Oregon Zoo cougar keeper. "Like all baby cougars, her coat will lose its spots as she grows — it should be fun to watch her coloring change to an adult pattern."

Cougar cub oregon zoo 1
Photo by Michael Durham, © Oregon Zoo.

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Mom and baby are currently off exhibit so they can bond without interruption; father Paiute, who moved to the zoo last spring, is still visible to the public.

"We are pleased to welcome a new member of our cougar family to the zoo," said Kim Smith, zoo director. "Our female, Chinook, is taking excellent care of her cub, and the staff couldn't be more pleased."
Like all cougars in accredited North American zoos, the location and reproductive status of Chinook, Paiute and their cub are managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' puma population management plan. For many years, the AZA plan did not recommend breeding cougars in captivity, but that policy was recently amended because of zoos' increased capacity to house the cats. The Oregon Zoo's cub is the first in the country to be born under the new policy.

When keepers determined that Chinook was reaching her due date, they built a behind-the-scenes maternity den where she and the cub now spend most of their time. Schireman says Chinook is a great mom.

"Since this is her first cub, we initially kept a very close eye on Chinook in case she needed assistance," Schireman said. "Turns out she doesn't need any help from us. She nurses and cleans the cub regularly, and both of them are doing really well."

Cougars — also known as mountain lions, pumas and (in Florida) panthers — live mostly in the western United States and Canada. They weigh from 75 to 130 pounds and have a carnivorous diet both in the wild and at the zoo. Females are either pregnant or raising cubs for the majority of their lives. After three months of gestation, two to three cubs are usually born in a litter and live with their mother for up to two years.

With the exception of the Florida panthers, cougars are not listed as endangered, but they do face many challenges in other parts of the country due to human encroachment and habitat destruction.