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1_Kitten at Oakland Zoo vet hospital_Credit MonicaFox

In just over one month, three orphaned Mountain Lion cubs have been rescued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and all have found sanctuary at Oakland Zoo.

The most recent, and youngest, arrived the night of December 23 in severe critical condition, more so than the first two cubs.

This third cub, estimated to be approximately 6-8 weeks of age, arrived near death, unable to stand or walk from such severe dehydration and starvation. Zoo vets found her starvation was so advanced, her body was consuming its own muscle mass. After six days of continuous IV fluids containing essential electrolytes and minerals, and round-the-clock bottle-feedings by Zoo veterinary staff, she began walking and showing signs of life. Vet staff joyously reports she is now regularly eating solid foods, showing spunky personality, and even ‘playing’ with her enrichment.

ZooBorns featured the story of the first two rescued cubs in an article from mid-December: Oakland Zoo Cares for Mountain Lion Orphans”.

As determined by the CDFW, these three cubs cannot be released back in to the wild once their rehabilitation is complete, they would have no chance of survival. Unfortunately, they need their mothers to be effectively taught to hunt and survive. In the wild, even when the mother is present, the survival rate of Mountain Lion cubs is slim. Mountain Lions are becoming critically endangered in the California, often struck by cars or shot when seen as a threat in encroaching urban areas and developments. Oakland Zoo partners with the conservation organizations like the Mountain Lion Foundation and the Bay Area Puma Project to try and help conserve the species in the wild.

“Mountain Lion cubs need up to two years with their mom in order to learn how to survive and thrive. Human survival training is not possible. The Bay Area Puma Project supports Oakland Zoo’s efforts to care for Pumas that cannot be released into the wild,” said Zara McDonald, Executive Director of the Bay Area Puma Project.

Oakland Zoo helped found BACAT (Bay Area Cougar Action Team) in 2013, an alliance with the Bay Area Puma Project and the Mountain Lion Foundation, to help support the CDFW save Mountain Lions caught in the human-wildlife conflict.

2_Kitten at Oakland Zoo vet hospital1 with IV_Credit MonicaFox

3_Kitten at Oakland Zoo vet hospital2_Credit MonicaFox

4_Being examined byDr. Parrott at Oakland Zoo vet hospitalPhoto Credits: Monica Fox (Images 1-3) / Oakland Zoo 

Yet unnamed, the newest kitten seems to be thriving in the past several days. Upon arrival, Zoo vet staff began treating her in the ICU with nine daily and overnight bottle-feedings of KMR (kitten milk replacer formula), grooming her with a soft cloth to mimic a mother’s tongue, and monitoring her progress constantly. She is now eating solid food. Her favorite stew is a combination of raw meat from Primal Pet Foods, chicken baby food, frozen mice that is warmed, and cod.

The newest rescue was found roadside in Coloma (El Dorado County) in the early morning hours of December 21st. The couple that discovered her reported she remained in the same spot for hours, and when they finally attempted to approach her, the cub attempted to drag herself away but was unable from weakness. The couple contacted Sierra Wildlife Rescue, who in turn contacted CDFW.

“We have a lot of work to do to better protect and conserve Mountain Lions in the wild, from proper education to establishing wildlife crossings and proper enclosures for pets and livestock. Oakland Zoo will continue to work in our BACAT Alliance with CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bay Area Puma Project, Mountain Lion Foundation to inspire our community to both understand and take action for our precious local lion,” said Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation at Oakland Zoo.

At Oakland Zoo, the cub trio will be ambassadors for human-wildlife conflict education, thus helping ensure the survival of their counterparts in the wild. Their new habitat, designed to mimic their natural setting, is likely the largest Mountain Lion habitat in the world at 26,000 sq. feet and will be open to the public in June 2018 as part of the Zoo’s upcoming California Trail expansion.

The Mountain Lion habitat in the Zoo’s expansion site is intended to mimic California habitat, educate visitors about wildlife in California and inspire people to take action for the future of the state’s wildlife and resources. The Mountain Lion’s habitat is currently under construction and is expected to be complete and ready for the cubs by February or March. The massive, covered habitat is boomerang-shaped with netting reaching 50 feet in the air, covering mature oak trees in which the Mountain Lions can perch, rest, and climb. Rocky outcroppings that create caves allow them the choice to rest and hide if they prefer.

In addition to their night house in the evenings, they will have access to the expansion area, which will include some trees and platforms for climbing and resting. This new habitat one of the largest Mountain Lion exhibits in the world, and all the features focus on attributes of their Lions’ natural environment.

(Photo below taken when/where orphan was found:)

5_Kitten where found roadside in Coloma