ESCONDIDO — Three recently rescued orphaned mountain lion cubs were treated at the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where they will now make their home.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found the 6-week-old cubs separately over the course of a week.
Because the young lions were orphaned at an early age, they cannot be safely reintroduced into their native habitat, according to the Wildlife Alliance. Fish and Wildlife designated the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as a safe haven for the rescued cubs.
“Mountain lions are a keystone species right here in our own backyard,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the Safari Park. “It’s been a privilege to nurse these youngsters back to full health, and we now have the honor of caring for them long-term.
“While our research teams and our conservation partners continue their mountain lion work in the field, the Safari Park will be a refuge for these three cubs, offering them native landscapes and new opportunities to thrive while sharing the importance of coexistence among wildlife with our guests,” Peterson said.
A search party assembled to find the cubs by using data from the GPS collar of the mother, designated F307 by the UC Davis mountain lion research team, to determine the search area.
On the first day of the search, team members from UC Davis found the first cub hiding in a hole, and the second was wedged tightly between two rocks, a statement from the Wildlife Alliance read. Three days later, they found the third cub crouching in the chaparral. The search continued for several more days and remote trail cameras found no evidence of other cubs, the Wildlife Alliance said.
All three cubs were within 250 feet of each other. Due to their young age, they likely would not have survived more than one week on their own. The trio were reunited at the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center and nursed back to full health, according to the Wildlife Alliance.
“Our UC Davis mountain lion study team really appreciated the help from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the effort to locate the cubs and the willingness of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to give them excellent care long-term,” said Dr. Winston Vickers, director of the Southern California Mountain Lion Program. “As veterinarians, we use education and research to help people living in mountain lion habitat protect their pets and livestock at night, assuring the health of both those animals and mountain lions.”
Mountain lions’ habitat ranges from Canada to the tip of South America. They are extremely versatile and adaptable, surviving in a range of habitats, including high mountains, deserts, coastal areas and even cities.
“In Southern California, their proximity to people has put local mountain lions at risk of population decline and even extinction due to low annual survival rates,” the Wildlife Alliance statement reads. “Ongoing and collaborative efforts between conservation partners, like these, which have saved these orphaned cubs, help assure the long-term survival of this iconic species in Southern California.”