Mountain Lion Cub Rescued From California Wildfire

The tiny kitten is now eating on his own and acting feisty.

The cub's whiskers were completely singed off and his paws were badly burned.
The cub's whiskers were completely singed off and his paws were badly burned.

 Oakland Zoo

A tiny, orphaned and burned mountain lion cub was rescued from the Zogg fire in Shasta County in Northern California.

Believed to be about four to six weeks old, the cub has severe burns, according to the Oakland Zoo, where the mountain lion is recuperating. 

Firefighters from Cal Fire found the solo cub wandering all alone. They contacted the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department, who reached out to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). They put the cub in a box and offered him some raw steaks until they could get him the help he needed.

Because CDFW veterinarians have been overwhelmed taking care of so many animals injured from the recent California wildfires, they contacted Oakland Zoo veterinarians for help treating the cub. 

“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 in a statement. “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.”

He added, ‍“Unfortunately, a lion this size is too small to be released back into the wild, but we are hopeful that under the zoo’s care, it will get a second chance as an ambassador for its species.”

Mountain lion cub being treated for burns
 Oakland Zoo

The male cub weighs just 3.75 pounds (1.7 kilograms). His whiskers are completely singed off, his paws are particularly badly burned, and his eyes are severely irritated, the zoo reports.

Zoo veterinarians have given him antibiotics, fluids, and pain medications. They originally fed him milk formula for kittens through a syringe, but now they report he’s eating on his own and “acting feisty,” which are both good signs for a recovery.

X-rays showed no damage to the cub’s lungs from smoke inhalation or bone damage to his paws. Veterinarians are working with UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital to treat the severe burns on the soft tissues of his paws.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that this cub will now survive and thrive, our dedicated team at Oakland Zoo is fully committed to do everything we can for him and for his beautiful species” said Dr. Alex Herman, Director of Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.

The Conservation Society of California, part of the Oakland Zoo, tells Treehugger. that the cub will be named Captain Cal, like the Cal Fire mascot for fire prevention.

Mountain lion cubs can stay with their mothers for two years until they become independent, according to Animal Diversity Web. Because this cub is orphaned and won't be able to learn how to survive in the wild, the zoo says he will be placed in a permanent home once he is able to leave the zoo's hospital.

Mountain lions are also known as cougars and pumas. They have faced habitat loss due to human development for agricultural and residential purposes, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The cats are also threatened by hunting, fires, road collisions, and disease.

As of Oct. 2, the Zogg fire had burned an estimated 55,800 acres and was about 39% contained, according to Cal Fire.

To help Captain Cal and other wildlife at the Oakland Zoo, head to the donations page here.