Mountain Lion

Orphaned Mountain Lion Cubs Bond at Oakland Zoo

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Two non-related Mountain Lion cubs are being cared for at Oakland Zoo’s veterinary hospital. In recent weeks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) rescued the cubs separately.

The male and female cubs, both approximately 9-10 weeks of age, are doing well and are being attended by Zoo vet staff around the clock. Because the cubs were orphaned too young to have the survival skills necessary for release, they will ultimately be permanently placed at an appropriate permanent facility when they are strong enough.

“We are so pleased that the Oakland Zoo was willing and able to play a role in saving the life of these cubs,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator. “Returning injured or orphaned wildlife to the wild is always the ideal outcome, but in situations like this -- where an animal is too young to have the necessary survival skills -- placing it back in the wild would be a death sentence. In those cases, we rely on zoos with experienced wildlife specialists and resources to step in and provide critical care. These cubs are small and in need of a temperature-controlled environment where they can stay warm. The Oakland Zoo’s veterinary facility was exactly what these animals needed, at exactly the right time.”

 

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3_male at Oakland Zoo Vet Hospital

4_femal_kitten_at_vet_hospitalPhoto Credits: Oakland Zoo

The male, first to arrive in late September, is from Modoc County. The cub was orphaned after its mother, which was reportedly killing sheep in the area, was shot and killed under a legal depredation permit. In the state of California, a person who suffers property damage by Mountain Lions is entitled to obtain a depredation permit to protect their property.

The second cub, a female, was discovered in Lake County after a property owner heard ‘chirps’ from what he believed to be a bird over a period of seven days. Mountain Lion cubs make a high-pitched ‘chirping’ sound when calling for their mother. The property owner did not disturb the animal until he observed the cub’s health was in serious decline.

According to Katie Woolery, Assistant Director at Sonoma Wildlife Rescue, an adult Mountain Lion, struck and killed by a car, was discovered five miles away around the same time but it’s not confirmed that this was the cub’s mother.

CDFW placed the female cub with Sonoma Wildlife Rescue on September 12, where it was examined and treated. The cub was severely dehydrated, emaciated, covered in parasites and burrs.

“While we don’t know for sure what caused this female cub to become orphaned, we do know that one of the biggest threat to Mountain Lions in California is traffic, with 107 animals killed by automobiles in 2016 alone,” said Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation at Oakland Zoo.

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Oakland Zoo Provides Home for Third Mountain Lion

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.

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Oakland Zoo Cares for Mountain Lion Orphans

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In cooperation with the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Feline Conservation Center, Oakland Zoo has taken in two orphaned Mountain Lion cubs. The cubs were found separately in Orange County, two weeks apart from each other. Due to their ages and geographic proximity to each other when rescued, Oakland Zoo veterinarians will conduct DNA testing to determine if they are, in fact, siblings.

An adult female Mountain Lion was struck and killed by a motorist in the area of the cubs’ rescues, leading to the conjecture that the cubs may have belonged to her and were separated as a result of her tragic death.

In response to a situation such as this, Oakland Zoo helped found BACAT (Bay Area Cougar Action Team) in 2013, in partnership with the Bay Area Puma Project and the Mountain Lion Foundation, to help save Mountain Lions caught in the human-wildlife conflict with the CDFW.

"The Mountain Lions of the Santa Anas are the most at-risk in the nation, equal to the Florida Panther in terms of the uncertainty around their survival. Orphaned kittens represent the death of a mother lions, and this isolated Orange County population cannot afford the loss. It will take protection of habitat and wildlife corridors, depredation prevention efforts, and enhancements of Southern California freeways to allow the Mountain Lions of the Santa Anas and Orange County to survive. The two orphaned kittens at the Oakland Zoo are evidence of that need," said Lynn Cullens, Executive Director of the Mountain Lion Foundation.

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2_Mountain Lion Cub 20171211 -5Photo Credits: Oakland Zoo

Both cubs are male and estimated to be 3-4 months old and weigh close to 30 lbs. They were found approximately 15 miles apart in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon and Rancho Santa Margarita.

The first was discovered in a resident’s backyard, and the second, approximately two weeks later, on the roadside. Residents reported the cub sightings and CDFW was contacted. The cubs were initially cared for by the Feline Conservation Center in Lake Forest before being brought to Oakland Zoo where they are currently being quarantined, given medical attention and cared for by the Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.

The second male cub arrived at Oakland Zoo on Monday and is doing very well. Zookeepers describe him as ‘feisty’ compared to his counterpart, who is more shy and cautious. Mountain Lions are new to Oakland Zoo, and these two cubs and the events that led them to need a ‘forever home’ will serve as educational ambassadors at Oakland Zoo’s upcoming 56-acre California Trail expansion, opening in June 2018.

“It is an honor to provide a forever home for these young Mountain Lions, and honor their lives further by working to help conserve their wild counterparts. We have a lot of work to do to better protect and conserve pumas, 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.

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