Mountain lion found in Tulsa backyard now at Kansas zoo

A a mountain lion that was captured in a Tulsa backyard in April has found a new home at a Kansas zoo.

The female mountain lion, which had been cared for at the Tulsa Zoo’s veterinary hospital, was relocated to the Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence, Kan., in December.

The large cat was captured April 23 in the backyard of a home in the 1400 block of North Quanah Avenue. She was taken to the zoo’s holding facilities in the veterinary hospital and treated for hookworms and roundworms, which caused anemia and a poor appetite, as well as ticks and fleas.

The mountain lion was slightly underweight at 70 pounds when she was captured, according to Trent Veppert, a zookeeper at the veterinary hospital who worked directly with the animal.

Before she was transferred, a final examination showed that the cat had fully recovered from her previous ailments and weighed a more healthy 85 pounds, Veppert said.

“The first thing we had to do was get her used to a person,” he said. “Some days she would hiss and spit at you. Other days she would come right up to you.”

Because the mountain lion had been cared for by humans at the zoo for an extended period and had learned to associate humans with a food supply, she could not be released into the wild, Veppert said.

“If she got to the point where she wasn’t afraid of people and would walk up for food, that wouldn’t be good for her or people in the area,” he said.

The mountain lion, estimated to be about 2 years old, had no tattoos or tags when she was found to indicate that she had once been captive, and DNA samples determined that her profile matched mountain lions in South Dakota.

Veppert said it is unusual for a female mountain lion to roam this far, although Oklahoma is on the edge of male mountain lion ranges.

“It would not be uncommon for an animal to pass through Oklahoma,” he said. “To have a population (in the state) would be uncommon.”

The Tulsa Zoo does not have a suitable exhibit for a mountain lion, so zoo officials had been looking for an appropriate home for her since her arrival.

Numerous facilities were contacted, and each had to submit information on exhibit space and veterinary care, photos of the exhibit and references. The Ralph Mitchell Zoo’s exhibit is spacious, with a pool, natural rock outcroppings and trees.

“I’ve never been in that close proximity to a mountain lion,” Veppert said. “I would not have turned down this opportunity for anything. Mountain lions are amazing animals to be around.

“I’m always sad to see them go, but I’m glad she’s in a good place.”
By SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Published: 1/5/2012  2:18 AM
Last Modified: 1/5/2012  4:35 AM

After eight months at the Tulsa Zoo,

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20120105_11_A13_CUTLIN798516

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