A four-week-old orphaned Cougar kitten traveled from central Idaho to Boston, where he will eventually make his new home at Zoo New England’s Stone Zoo.
Photo Credit: Dayle Sullivan-Taylor
Blue, a male kitten weighing five pounds, was found near Salmon, Idaho and taken to a local veterinary clinic. The next day, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game returned the kitten to the location where he was found in hopes that the mother was nearby. Following this attempt to reunite the kitten with his mother, persons unknown found the kitten and it was once again returned to the veterinary clinic. At that time, Idaho Department of Fish and Game determined that the kitten could not be returned back to the wild and that a permanent home would need to be found.
“This late-season kitten emphasizes the need to be diligent about leaving wild babies alone. While the outcome is not what was hoped for, it is the best situation for the kitten under the circumstances,” said Dr. Mark Drew, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Veterinarian.
Pete Costello, Assistant Curator of Stone Zoo, traveled to Idaho last week to pick up the male kitten and bring him home to Massachusetts. The trip was made possible through coordination with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as well as through the generosity of JetBlue, which provided the travel arrangements and safety oversight.
Caring for the kitten will require significant attention from the zoo’s skilled animal management and veterinary teams. Currently, the kitten is being bottle fed every four to five hours throughout the day. He is being cared for at the zoo hospital, located at Franklin Park Zoo, for at least the first 30 days.
“Given the challenges he has faced in his first few weeks of life, we are thrilled to be able to provide a home for this kitten. Our staff prepared for his arrival and for the special care that this kitten will need during these early days. An ambassador for his species, our guests will have the unique opportunity to learn more about Cougars as they watch him grow up,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “His journey to Boston is the result of a truly collaborative effort. We are incredibly grateful to JetBlue, whose team went above and beyond every step of the way in assuring a smooth travel experience. In honor of all of their support, the new kitten will be named Blue.”
When Blue is big enough, he will move to his new home at Stone Zoo. He is expected to debut in the Cougar exhibit in winter 2015.
One of the largest of North America's wild cats, Cougars are also known as Panthers, Painters, Mountain Lions, Pumas and Catamounts. Although the Cougars' United States range has diminished throughout the last century, they still have the widest distribution of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They range from the Yukon in Canada through the western portion of the United States and a small portion of the eastern United States to Patagonia. Cougars are found in a wide variety of habitats including lowlands, mountainous regions, deserts, and tropical forests.
Females typically give birth between April and September to one to six kittens, which are born with a spotted coat and blue eyes.