Oakland Zoo Receives Two Orphan Mountain Lion Cubs

Oakland Zoo
November 14, 2023

Female mountain lion cub during examination at Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

Oakland, CA – November 14, 2023… Two very young, orphaned mountain lion siblings were rescued and transported to Oakland Zoo this morning by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) following their search for the kittens, which started yesterday morning. An adult female mountain lion, who CDFW suspects is their mother, was struck by a car and killed on Thursday, November 9th , along Highway 280, near the Hillsboro/Burlingame area. Over the weekend, residents reported seeing two cubs alone near the area, and they were found safe in one of the reporting residents’ backyard. Both kittens are female, approximately six to ten weeks old, and weigh five and five-and-a-half pounds, respectively. These kittens mark the 25th and 26th mountain lion rescues, as part of the Zoo’s Rescue and Recovery Program for local wildlife in need.

Upon arrival, at 11:30am today, Oakland Zoo's Veterinary Hospital staff conducted a thorough health examination on both female cubs. The exam included virus testing, parasite treatment, and bloodwork testing. Additionally, vital fluids were administered to the visibly dehydrated kittens. Although underweight and dehydrated, they are showing no signs of extreme illness at this time. The Zoo’s Vet Hospital staff are awaiting laboratory results to determine if the kittens are anemic and will need blood transfusions.

“Our team will be caring for the cubs daily to restore them to full health and for their overall animal wellbeing,” said Dr. Alex Herman, Oakland Zoo’s Vice President of Veterinary Services.

Oakland Zoo Veterinary staff performing a check-up on rescued cubs;Photo Credit Oakland ZOo

Orphaned kittens, such as these, remain on average for eight days in the Zoo’s ICU. Once cleared, they are moved to a holding area at the Zoo’s Vet Hospital for weeks or months until CDFW identifies a proper home for the cubs. In the wild, mountain lion cubs need about two years with their mother to learn survival skills. Because the cubs are so young, they lack those skills and cannot return to the wild.

"These cubs became orphans when their mother was struck by a car on a busy highway, a tragedy suffered by wildlife when safe passage across their natural territories isn't possible. We support and advocate for more wildlife crossings, such as the one opened in Santa Cruz earlier this year on Highway 17," said Nik Dehejia, Oakland Zoo's CEO. 

Dr.Ryan Sadler examining cub rescue;Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

In 2012, the Oakland Zoo participated in a training session focused on resolving conflicts between humans and wildlife. This training led to forming BACAT (Bay Area Cougar Action Team). The alliance brings together various agencies, non-profit organizations, local parks, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and mountain lion researchers. With a shared message and a team-based approach, BACAT aims to create a support system that serves as a model for other regions in California and beyond. Through BACAT, Oakland Zoo has already rescued and rehabilitated 24 mountain lions, most victims of human-wildlife conflicts or wildfires.

To learn more about the Zoo’s Mountain Lion Rescue and Recovery program, visit: https://www.oaklandzoo.org/wildlife-conservation/mountain-lions#taking-action