An orphaned mountain lion cub who was found in San Mateo County last week and was brought to the Oakland Zoo for care and treatment is showing marked improvement as of Thursday, following a blood transfusion.
The female cub arrived at the zoo Sunday severely underweight and riddled with ticks and parasites following a five-day search for her in the Thornewood Open Space Preserve in San Mateo County, where she had first been spotted by hikers.
The Oakland Zoo has become known for their ability to rehabilitate abandoned mountain lion cubs, and this five-month-old, who's been named Rose, is the 18th to come to the zoo since 2017. You may recall how, in 2020, the zoo helped rescue and care for three mountain lion cubs who were found abandoned in the Zogg Fire in Shasta County.
"Based on her initial exam, it appears [Rose] hasn’t eaten in weeks," said VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo, Dr. Alex Herman in a statement Monday. "She is excruciatingly thin. To survive, her body resorted to consuming its own muscle mass."
At 8.8 pounds on arrival, Rose was about 20 pounds underweight for her age, and it had probably been a while since she was with her mother.
"She is also suffering from extreme dehydration, and her temperature was so low it couldn’t even be read," Dr. Herman said. "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."
The feistiness was on display in a Facebook live video Thursday, showing Rose gladly devouring some horse meat and hissing at her zoo captors.
On Wednesday, Rose received a blood tranfusion from one of the adult mountain lions who lives at the zoo, Silverado — who was also rehabilitated as an orphaned cub.
Rose will also likely spend the rest of her life in captivity at a zoo or other sanctuary.
"Unfortunately she won't be releasable back into the wild," said veterinarian Dr. Ryan Sadler in the video. "Because she's missing out on that first two-year period where she learns a lot of stuff from her mom, she may stay here at the zoo or she may go to another accredited zoo or sanctuary."
And Dr. Sadler also said that now that she's gaining some weight back and improving, the zookeepers will try to give her some more alone-time to destress — since mountain lions are very solitary, secretive animals who need their space.
"We appreciate the hiker and the team at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District who alerted us to the mountain lion cub and its condition," said California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Garrett Allen in a statement. "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."
Anyway, despite her lashing out over the food bowl, the doctors say this is a good thing, and Rose's bloodwork is getting better by the day.