Last Thursday, Oct. 21, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute’s cheetah mom Rosalie picked a new "den" for her cubs. She moved them, one by one, to a large clump of tall grasses in her yard. The area was well-protected, and it is not uncommon for cheetah moms to move dens. Animal care staff monitored Rosalie and the cubs but did not intervene, as Rosalie has been a very attentive mother. Unfortunately, was no webcam in the grass so the Cubs’ adoring fans had stayed tuned for updates!
Why did Rosalie move her cubs? Was she scared or spooked?
It is not known why Rosalie moved her cubs. It’s completely natural for cheetah moms to move their litters. In fact, every single one of the Zoo’s females has moved cubs during the first month of life except for one. The grasses are also a very popular spot for cheetah moms to move their cubs within the first month – five have in recent memory: Amani (2011), Sanurra (2015), Hope (2017), Erin (2018), and Echo (2020).
Weather can also play a factor. This time of the year is hard. It’s warm during the day and moms get very warm inside the dens. But it’s also still chilly to be outside at night. So, it is a hard time of year to be in one place or the other 100% of the time. The warm days could have encouraged Rosalie to move her cubs out. She was observed panting in the den during the day. She had also been in that den for almost two weeks straight! It was likely pretty gross and stinky in there. In the wild, they wouldn’t stay in one place too long because the smell would attract predators.
On Sunday, Oct. 24, cheetah mom Rosalie moved her five cubs back into the den with a webcam. It took her about 30 minutes total to move all the cubs, as you can see in this video.
Cheetah Cub Cam: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/cheetah-cub-cam