Baby cougar treated by local veterinarian
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE
LAKE FOREST An 8-month-old cougar darted near a Boy Scout campground is sleeping off her sedation inside a kennel at a veterinary clinic. Video of Cougar.
The female kitten was seen early Tuesday morning by Orange County Animal Care officers near the Rancho Santa Margarita campground at Los Alisos Boulevard and the 241 Toll Road.
Attempts by animal control officers to get the kitten to run away from the uninhabited area failed, and the kitten was sedated so that she could be safely removed from inside the fenced area.
Kristi Krause, a veterinarian who works with Scott Weldy, who for years has treated exotic animals, including birds, went to the site before the kitten was tranquilized. A perimeter was established to make sure that once the kitten was darted, she wouldn’t run off and injure herself.
The kitten was taken to Weldy’s Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital. Krause did a full blood panel, examined her eyes, teeth and coat, and listened to her heart and lungs.
“She’s beautiful and perfect,” said Krause. “It broke my heart to shave a spot and put a catheter in. She has young, bright and perfect teeth, and her coat has minimal ticks and fleas for an animal that lives in the wild.”
This afternoon, the kitten was slowly waking up and will be released into her territory away from the campground Tuesday nnight. Weldy and Krause are hopeful that she will be reunited with her mother after the release.
Winston Vickers, a field leader with U.C. Davis’ Wildlife Health Center who is involved in an ongoing study of mountain lions in Southern California, said most kittens would not normally leave their mother before being nearly 2 years old. The lions generally roam a 30-square-mile territory, and the mother is expected to be somewhere in that area.
It is likely the kitten was left behind to feed on deer while the mother hunted again.
At 8 months, Vickers said, the kitten likely hunts small animals but can’t take down a deer. To do that, she’ll need to get bigger and become more skilled.
“She’ll need to spend time watching her mother or practice her skill on her own on various sizes,” said Vickers.
This kitten and its mother are not part of the 12 radio-collared lions in the U.C. Davis study but may become part of it at some point in the future, Vickers said.
“In areas where we develop homes and roads close to their habitats, the lions have a greater chance of getting caught in back yards and behind fences,” said Vickers. “It makes life riskier for them.”
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org
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