Photo by Kristen Perry, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
An orphaned, severely underweight mountain lion cub was rescued by CDFW on Sunday, April 10, and taken to the Oakland Zoo where it is currently receiving treatment.
The cub was first spotted on April 5 by a hiker on a trail in Thornewood Open Space Preserve near Woodside in San Mateo County. The hiker took a photo of the cub from a safe location and shared it with staff at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MidPen), which manages the preserve.
Scientists were unsure if the cub’s mother was still in the area and began monitoring trail cameras to gather information. On Friday, they received a photo of the cub lying down on the trail near where it was seen before.
Veterinarians at CDFW’s Wildlife Health Lab saw the photo and immediately knew that the cub was malnourished and likely an orphan.
A CDFW team composed of biologists Garrett Allen and Megan Senour and wildlife officer Max Holland responded but did not initially find the cub. MidPen staff continued monitoring cameras throughout the weekend. CDFW wildlife officer Gabrielle Stauffer also joined the response team.
On Sunday, the team received a phone call from MidPen saying they found the cub lying down near the same location. CDFW returned to the trail and this time the cub was still there. Senour approached the cub with a catchpole while Allen and officers stood by as backup. Senour was able to walk right up to the cub and secure it. The puma was placed in a safe enclosure and transported to the Oakland Zoo.
“The cub was aware of its surroundings but either didn’t have the strength to run from us or didn’t want to try. It was easier to capture than we expected, which goes to show how rough of shape it was in,” said Allen.
The female cub is estimated to be about four months old. She was covered in fleas and ticks and weighed less than half the normal bodyweight of a healthy cub her age. The Oakland Zoo has a full veterinary staff and is treating the lion with plenty of fluids and nutrients to give it the best shot at recovering.
CDFW senior veterinarian Dr. Deana Clifford noted that the department typically takes a measured approach to wildlife interventions.
“It’s usually best to keep wildlife wild, but we do occasionally see situations where intervention is warranted. When these situations occur, we have great strategic partners like our colleagues at the Oakland Zoo and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,” said Clifford.
The public can report mountain lion sightings to CDFW through its Wildlife Incident Reporting system. Public safety concerns should immediately be reported to local law enforcement.
In urban areas throughout California, there are multiple threats to mountain lions including car strikes, toxins and illegal take. The Santa Cruz mountains offer suitable puma habitat including in parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. However, it’s rare to see a mountain lion because they are elusive creatures.
“If you do see a mountain lion, do not approach it. Adult pumas, when out hunting prey, may leave offspring somewhere safe for up to days at a time. Seeing a young animal by itself does not indicate that it is an orphan or that intervention is necessary,” said Allen.
CDFW greatly appreciates the time that staff at MidPen spent assisting with the effort. From checking cameras daily to searching for and locating the cub on Sunday, the capture would not have been successful without their assistance. Although the kitten was in critical condition when rescued, it is responding well to veterinary care at the Oakland Zoo, and staff are cautiously optimistic she will make a full recovery, although she is likely to stay in captivity.
Wildlife Incident Reporting System: https://apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir
Mountain Lions in California: wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Mountain-Lion