A tiny, orphaned cougar cub with a big appetite made a brief stop at the Oregon Zoo’s veterinary medical center this week. The cub — an 8-week-old male with a fuzzy, spotted coat and big, baby-blue eyes — was rescued by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers after being found on a logging road outside of Spokane.
Since the cub wouldn’t stand a chance in the wild without its mom, WDFW bear and cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil contacted Oregon Zoo keeper Michelle Schireman, who serves as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ species coordinator for cougars. After a short stopover in Portland for some vaccinations and a medical exam, the cub caught a flight to his new permanent home at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado.
“Without a mother, young cougars can’t survive on their own in the wild, so I work to find them good homes,” Schireman said. “We would rather they grow up with their moms, but when that’s not an option we want them to have the best lives possible.”
“He was a great eater,” said Oregon Zoo veterinarian Kelly Flaminio. “He had baby teeth coming in, and he was not into the formula unless it had meat in it. He purred while eating — you could see how much he enjoyed food.”
As AZA species coordinator, Schireman has found homes for more than 150 cougar cubs in zoos around the country. Most of the cougars currently living in U.S. zoos are orphans she has placed. Usually, though, she never sees the cats she helps.
“In most cases, we try to arrange for orphaned cubs to go directly to their new homes,” Schireman said. “But in special situations, and depending on whether we have space, we sometimes take care of them at the zoo until their health has stabilized. It’s a lot to ask of our staff, but everyone here is incredibly dedicated to helping wildlife. Our vet staff and keepers took shifts to make sure the little guy received around-the-clock care.”
Cougars — also known as mountain lions, pumas and (in Florida) panthers — range throughout southwest Canada, the western United States and South America. With the exception of the Florida panthers, cougars are not listed as endangered, but they do face many challenges due to human encroachment and habitat destruction.
Source: Oregon Zoo