The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently welcomed a litter of orphaned mountain lion cubs rescued from the wild. The cubs, two males and a female, are approximately nine-weeks-old and arrived at the OKC Zoo in late January.
Born in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountain lion cubs were found by game officials with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Realizing the cubs’ mother was deceased and they were too young to survive on their own, game officials immediately intervened and began providing 24/7 care for the orphaned cubs. They also contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to locate a permanent home for the litter because recovered cubs cannot return to the wild according to South Dakota state protocol.
Learning of the cubs’ situation, the OKC Zoo made the decision to take in the litter and provide a forever home for both male cubs at its Oklahoma Trails habitat. The female cub will be relocating to AZA-accredited Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas later this summer, but will remain with her brothers at the OKC Zoo until then.
“By bringing these orphaned cubs to the OKC Zoo and providing them with the care, veterinary monitoring and enriching environment needed to thrive we are ensuring their survival.” said Tyler Boyd, OKC Zoo animal curator. “Since it opened in 2007, Oklahoma Trails has been home to mountain lions, and we are excited to watch these brothers grow and become beloved ambassadors for the habitat. We want to connect our guests to the importance of caring for native wildlife and wild places, and communicate why it’s vital to protect both.”
Once the cubs complete their 30-day quarantine at the OKC Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital they will be on public view at Oklahoma Trails.
The mountain lion is known by many names including catamount, cougar, panther or puma. Native to the Americas, mountain lions once roamed most of the United States including Oklahoma, but now the largest populations inhabit the western U.S. Impressive in size and strength, mountain lions are considered apex predators meaning they are not prey to any other animals. These large carnivores are built for hunting and actually help control deer and other animal populations from reaching unhealthy levels. Adult mountain lions are recognized for their solid tawny coats but cubs are born with spots that vanish before they are a year old. Mountain lion cubs are also born with blue eyes that change to yellow around 16-18 months old.
OKC Zoo’s mountain lion cub stats:
· All three mountain lion cubs are healthy, extremely energetic and currently weigh 9-10 lbs. each.
· During their next wellness exam on Wednesday, February 20, the Zoo’s veterinary care team will visually exam, weigh the cubs and give them their next round of vaccinations.
· The youngsters are currently on a feline meat diet.
· Do they have names? Yes, the males are Toho, meaning “cougar god”, and Tanka, from Wakan Tanka meaning “great spirit” in the Lakota language, and the female, Tawakoni, is inspired by the Wichita tribe whose name means “river bend among red sand hills.”
· When will Zoo guests be able to see the cubs? After the cubs are out of quarantine, the OKC Zoo’s animal care team will allow them access to one of the smaller habitats in Oklahoma Trails to see how they navigate the space. Gradually they will spend time in the larger mountain lion habitat. However, this process can take some time as the caretakers let the cubs’ set the pace.
Greet the OKC Zoo’s newest residents with a wild welcome! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Oklahoma City Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.