Oakland, CA – October 1, 2020… Only four to six weeks old, an orphaned mountain lion cub suffering from severe wildfire burns was discovered and rescued by a Cal Fire firefighter yesterday in an area the Zogg Wildfire burned through this past Sunday in Redding.
Upon discovering and capturing the lone cub, Cal Fire contacted the Shasta County Sherriff’s Department, who in turn contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). CDFW veterinarians, who are tirelessly working to save the lives of so many wildlife victims trapped by the recent fires throughout California, then contacted Oakland Zoo veterinarians for help in treating the cub.
Upon receiving the urgent call by CDFW around 5PM last night, Oakland Zoo’s veterinary team was standing by to receive and treat the cub, which arrived at 7:15PM, driven from Redding by Pete Figura, Supervising Wildlife Biologist for the CDFW.
“We are so grateful for the Oakland Zoo’s expertise, world-class facilities and willingness to step up – on extremely short notice – to help wildlife in need,” said CDFW’s senior wildlife veterinarian Dr. Deana Clifford. “Partnerships like this are absolutely critical to our state’s efforts to provide emergency care. California’s wildfires are erupting on a scale that we’ve never seen before, and we expect that we’ll have more burn patients than we have the capacity to treat in our own veterinary facility.”
“Unfortunately, a lion this size is too small to be released back into the wild, but we are hopeful that under the Zoo’s care, it will get a second chance as an ambassador for its species.”
Oakland Zoo’s Dr. Lynette Waugh, along with staff veterinary technicians immediately examined and treated the very young male cub, weighing only 3.75 pounds – and reported he was badly burned, especially his paws. His whiskers are completely singed off, and there is severe irritation to his eyes as well. The cub was cleaned and given antibiotics, supportive fluids, pain medication and fed milk formula for kittens (through a syringe). Dr. Alex Herman at Oakland Zoo explained that he is currently eating on his own and acting feisty – both promising signs for his recovery. Zoo veterinarians performed x-rays earlier today to determine if there is damage to his lungs from smoke inhalation and bone damage to his paws, and results were positive. Aside from severe burns to the soft tissue of the paws, there is no damage to bones or lungs. Oakland Zoo's veterinary team is also working with UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital for their expertise in providing the most advanced care in treating the cub’s burn wounds.
Dr. Alex Herman, Director of Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital said “We’re grateful to be part of this amazing little cub’s rescue and rehabilitation. It’s an amazing effort between Cal Fire, the Shasta County Sherriff’s Department, and of course our partners at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. In the past two years, this marks our thirteenth mountain lion cub rescue for Oakland Zoo in partnership with CDFW. We’re cautiously optimistic that this cub will now survive and thrive, our dedicated team at Oakland Zoo is fully committed to do everything we can for him and for his beautiful species.”
Aside from wildfires, Mountain lions are facing numerous threats in California; often struck by cars and illegally poached. These factors culminate in the human-wildlife conflict, putting them at odds with humans in encroaching urban areas and developments. Oakland Zoo partners with conservation organizations like the Mountain Lion Foundation and the Bay Area Puma Project to educate the public on the issue and help conserve the species in the wild.
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 to save mountain lions caught in the human-wildlife conflict.
In the wild, Mountain lion cubs stay with their mothers until they are around two years of age in order to learn the skills to survive on their own. Because this cub is orphaned and now unable to learn how to survive in the wild, he will be placed in a suitable forever home once he’s ready to leave Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.