Rescued Two Month Old Mountain Lion Cub Healing Well Despite Burns

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Not a sight often seen, when this little ash covered feline was first spotted, firefighters believed it to be a normal displaced house cat. They had been battling the Zogg Wildfire in Redding, CA for hours. But as the small cat snuck under a fallen limb on the roadside, they realized it was more than just burned paws and singed whiskers. It was a mountain lion!

A very singed and terrified mountain lion cub, staring back at them from the scorched brush.

The poor animal was less than 2 months old and weighed only about 4 pounds. And that was 4 pounds of vicious, baby wild cat. The firefighters that had found the abandoned animal were able to safely capture what turned out to be an angry little boy.

Searching the area, they did not locate a mother or any siblings sadly. Most females have 2-3 cubs in a litter, and they all remain together for almost 2 years in the wild. This poor boy was likely separated during the raging inferno.

Luckily, they activated the “baby mountain lion” phone tree. First was the Shasta County Sherriff’s Office to transfer the cub. After that, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Services joined the rescue efforts. And finally, they contacted the experienced team at the Oakland Zoo for help. The cub was quickly driven to their facility by one of the biologists. 

“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.”

But the road to recovery will not be an easy one for this little mountain lion they’ve named Captain Cal. 

Oakland Zoo’s Dr. Lynette Waugh and staff veterinary technicians immediately began treating the cub, who weighs only 3.75 pounds.

Waugh said the cub was badly burned, especially in the soft tissues of his paws. His whiskers were singed off, and he is suffering severe eye irritation. There is little doubt that he wouldn’t have survived if the firefighter hadn’t found him.

I cannot imagine it’s easy to keep a rambunctious wild cat on “bed rest” or off his paws. The cub’s lungs were not damaged by smoke inhalation thankfully and he’s received antibiotics to curb any infection.

At his age and if he were with his mother, he would just be starting to wean off of his mother’s milk. He’s reportedly eating on his own, but also being syringe fed by volunteers. This way they can be sure he’s receiving the nutrition and supplements he requires. 

Dr. Alex Herman, director of the zoo’s veterinary hospital, said his team was “cautiously optimistic” that the cub would survive and thrive.

Because of his young age, sadly they have accepted Captain Cal will never be able to return to the wild.

The humans caring for him will do all they can to help him hone his skills though. 

Kittens learn hunting skills through play and exploration, and by watching their mother. When the young are about 6 weeks old, she begins taking them to her kills to feed. As the kittens mature, their spots fade. At 6 months, they weigh over 30 pounds and are becoming capable hunters. Kittens remain with their mother for another year, improving their hunting skills.

For now, Captain Cal is continuing to improve and his little paws are healing well. Already, two organizations have offered to care for him permanently once the bandages are off. 

REMEMBER: BIG CATS DON’T MAKE GOOD PETS; THEY BELONG IN THE WILD!

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