The Oregon Zoo's Cougar cub will be on exhibit starting Thursday, Nov. 11, though visitors will need to keep a sharp eye out to see the youngster. Like all baby Cougars, the female cub is well-camouflaged by the brown spots on her coat. Since her birth Sept. 19, the cub has lived in a maternity den with her mother, Chinook. She and Chinook will have access to the Cougar exhibit in the morning, while the cub's father, Paiute, will be on exhibit in the afternoon. The cub, who keepers describe as "brave and feisty," has ventured into the exhibit several times this past week, first with the exhibit's viewing areas completely closed and then with zoo staff watching from the viewing areas.
"As we expected, the cub quickly adapted to having people around," said Michelle Schireman, Oregon Zoo Cougar keeper. "She's quite the little explorer. Her comfort was the determining factor in our decision to open the exhibit to zoo visitors."
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According to Schireman, the cub has become increasingly confident, and will now go into the exhibit even when Chinook chooses to stay inside; in these instances, mother and cub check in with each other by vocalizing back and forth.
The young cougar feels just as confident around keepers as she does when exploring her exhibit.
"The cub will try to chase and herd us around the room when we bring her in for medical check-ups," Schireman said. "She weighs all of 9 pounds, and she's convinced that she can take on an adult human."
The Oregon Zoo's 6-week-old cougar cub will go on exhibit Nov. 11. According to keepers, the cub is very adventurous and has adapted well to being outdoors. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo. 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.
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 150 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.