Emaciated Mountain Lion Cub Recovering at Oakland Zoo After 5-Day Search to Save Animal

Rose the mountain lion cub arrived at the California zoo 20 pounds underweight and in need of immediate medical assistance

rescued mountain lion cub
Photo: Oakland Zoo

The Oakland Zoo has a wild new resident.

According to an April 12 release from the zoo, the California facility is currently caring for an emaciated mountain lion cub found in critical condition in San Mateo.

Hikers first spotted the ailing animal, estimated to be between four to five months of age, in the Thornewood Open Space Preserve on April 5. Because the baby animal appeared to be orphaned and ill, wildlife biologists from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked in a joint effort to find the cub and rescue her.

The wildlife biologists set up cameras and patrols to help locate the cub, and after five days of searching, the agencies found and safely secured the orphaned baby animal. Wildlife biologists then transported the cub, named Rose by her rescuers, to the Oakland Zoo, where a veterinary team was standing by the assist the animal.

Rose arrived at the zoo covered in fleas and ticks and weighing only 8.8 pounds, over 20 pounds shy of what a healthy female mountain lion her size should weigh.

"Based on her initial exam, it appears she hasn't eaten in weeks. She is excruciatingly thin. To survive, her body resorted to consuming its own muscle mass. She is also suffering from extreme dehydration, and her temperature was so low it couldn't even be read. But she survived her first night, which was critical. We can already tell she has a feisty spirit and an obvious will to live, and we're thankful for that," Dr. Alex Herman, the VP of veterinary services at the Oakland Zoo, said in a statement about Rose's first days at the zoo.

Currently, the zoo is continuing to provide around-the-clock care to the cub to aid with her recovery. Rose is receiving regular blood tests to determine if she will need a blood transfusion from one of the healthy, fully grown, rescued mountain lions living at the zoo since the baby animal's red blood cell count is low.

Rose is also receiving fluids and hydration intravenously at the zoo and has several keepers helping her safely regain weight through bottle feedings and small meals. The cub's positive reaction to treatment so far has the Oakland Zoo cautiously optimistic that the mountain lion will recover.

CDFW shared that mountain lion sightings are rare in California since the creatures are usually elusive. The wild cat doesn't often pose a threat to humans, but individuals who fear a wild animal is in danger or a "public safety issue" should contact local law enforcement instead of attempting to intervene.

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"We appreciate the hiker and the team at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District who alerted us to the mountain lion cub and its condition. The Santa Cruz Mountains provide good habitat for mountain lions, but it's rare to see a mountain lion because they're elusive creatures. If you see a mountain lion, do not approach it. Adult animals, 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, and intervention is appropriate," CDFW biologist Garrett Allen said in a statement.

Rose will not be releasable, even if her recovery goes well, the Oakland zoo shared. In the wild, mountain lion cubs stay with their mothers for up to two years, learning how to hunt and survive. Without these skills, the cub cannot survive on their own.

The Oakland Zoo and CDFW will work together to find Rose a good home when the time is right, likely at another Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoo.

This is the eighteenth orphaned mountain lion cub Oakland Zoo rehabilitated with help from CDFW since 2017. Three of the felines, Coloma, Toro, and Silverado, stayed at the Oakland Zoo after their recovery and can be seen at the zoo's California Trail section.

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