A mountain lion cub — that's likely no more than six weeks old — was recently transported to the Oakland Zoo after sustaining life-threatening burns from the Zogg Fire in Shasta County; a team of veterinarians at the zoological institution are working around the clock to treat his wounds.
We humans, the dominant species on this planet, oftentimes forget about the perils our faunal kin face amid wildfires. Last year when more than 46 million acres burned in Australia during the continent’s record-shattering bushfire season, over three billion animals either perished or were injured; the West Coast wildfires this year have decimated the region’s biodiversity — and has likely caused the death of hundreds of thousands of birds. Among the affected animals from the still-raging wildfires of 2020 is a young male mountain lion cub that's now being treated at the Oakland Zoo.
Rescued #ZoggFire mountain lion UPDATE: our vet staff treated "Captain Cal" and removed the dead skin from his wounded feet, then wrapped each foot in bandages to heal.— Oakland Zoo (@oakzoo) October 4, 2020
He's drinking formula & getting lots of TLC. We are hopeful that he will continue to improve! pic.twitter.com/5rKIKvhYPM
As reported by multiple news outlets (the Chronicle, KTVU, etc.), firefighters battling the Zogg Fire captured the young male kitten and handed him over to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Afterward, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials were contacted — at which time the state agency reached out to the Oakland Zoo for help. And soon, the orphaned cub, who's mother and siblings were nowhere in sight upon the rescue, was driven to the Oakland Zoo, courtesy of a staffed biologist.
SFGate reports that Oakland Zoo’s Dr. Lynette Waugh and on-site staff veterinary technicians began treating the less-than-four-pound cub as soon as he arrived. Waugh and company noted that his whiskers were torched off, and he was suffering from eye irritation; the soft tissues around his paws, mouth, and nose were also badly burned. However, X-rays proved his lungs and bones remained in good health despite his exterior condition.
Had firefighters not found the cub, now named "Captain Cal," he would've almost certainly died — so "it's a miracle" he was alive in the first place.
"It's a miracle that he's alive," said Erin Harrison of the Oakland Zoo to CNN, noting that the team treating him is "cautiously optimistic." The biologist who transported the cub is also hopeful that the cub will pull through: "He was alert and feisty [when he was picked up], so that gave me hope that he would be okay."
Currently, both staff at the Oakland Zoo and UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital are tending to the cub's burn wounds. Should he recover, he'll likely stay in captivity for some time. Even when weaned, mountain lion cubs stay with their mother for at least two years learning how to successfully hunt, shelter themselves, and patrol their territories.
Mountain lions, a.k.a "North American cougars," are one of the six subspecies of Puma concolor and boast the largest habitat range of any in the genus. The nationally-famous Florida Panther, by contrast, is the rarest of the group and currently number less than 130 specimens in the wild; both big cats have seen dramatic declines in populations due to deforestation, excessive (sometimes illegal) hunting, and other types of human activities.
Image: Twitter via screentshot of video posted by @oakzoo