Orphaned Mountain Lion Cub Spotted by Hikers in San Mateo Rescued After Five Day Search

Oakland Zoo
April 12, 2022

OAKLAND, CA – April 11, 2022…Already named ‘Rose’ by her Oakland Zoo caregivers, the four- to five-month-old female cub was found in the nick of time based on her critical medical condition upon arrival at the Zoo’s veterinary hospital around 3PM on Sunday, according to Oakland Zoo veterinarians. Extremely emaciated, Rose weighs only 8.8 pounds, and at her estimated age, a healthy female mountain lion should weigh around 30 pounds.  

Photo captured by CDFW / California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday, April 8, at Thornewood Open Space Preserve

Based on her initial exam, it appears she hasn’t eaten in weeks. She is excruciatingly thin.  To survive, her body resorted to consuming its own muscle mass. She is also suffering from extreme dehydration, and her temperature was so low it couldn’t even be read. 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,” said VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo, Dr. Alex Herman.

Initially spotted by hikers last Tuesday in the Thornewood Open Space Preserve in San Mateo, part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, wildlife biologists from Midpen contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in a joint effort to find the elusive orphaned cub to rescue her. Cameras were set up in the area, and daily patrols were made. The cub was spotted again on Friday by use of the cameras, but by the time the wildlife biologists from both agencies arrived and searched, the cub had disappeared. Finally, yesterday, a Midpen wildlife biologist and ranger, along with two wildlife biologists from CDFW, Garrett Allen and Megan Senour, located and retrieved the cub, bringing her to Oakland Zoo where the veterinary team was standing by to receive her and administer immediate medical treatment.  

Now receiving round-the-clock care at Oakland Zoo, Rose, in addition to starvation and dehydration, was covered in fleas and ticks. Blood tests show a very low red blood cell count. Dr. Ryan Sadler of Oakland Zoo states that if her red blood cell count remains low, the plan is to give Rose a blood transfusion, using one of the Zoo’s previously rescued mountain lions, now a permanent resident and fully grown healthy adult, as a donor. Daily blood tests are being given to monitor her, along with monitoring her weight and other vitals.

Oakland Zoo veterinary team conducting initial exam Sunday afternoon upon receiving the cub from CDFW

For now, veterinarians are guardedly optimistic about Rose’s recovery. Currently, she is receiving fluids and hydration through intravenously, to avoid re-feeding syndrome. For now, her care team is bottle feeding her small amounts of formula several times a day. Dr. Sadler also reported that she ate some meat this morning and was alert – hopeful signs she will continue gaining strength and recover in the weeks to come.

Cameras will remain in place at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, and checked to determine if there are any other mountain lions in the area including any additional cubs.

We appreciate the hiker and the team at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District who alerted us to the mountain lion cub and its condition. 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,” said CDFW Biologist Garrett Allen.  

Mountain lions generally aren’t a threat to humans. However, any public safety issue should be reported immediately to local law enforcement. To report general sightings, the public can submit a Wildlife Incident Report through CDFW’s website. For more information visit CDFW’s Mountain Lions in California webpage.  

If all goes well with Rose’s recovery over the next few months, she unfortunately will not be releasable back into the wild. Mountain lion cubs stay with the mothers for up to two years, learning how to hunt and survive on their own. Oakland Zoo and CDFW will work together in finding Rose a good home, likely at another Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoo. This is the eighteenth orphaned mountain lion cub Oakland Zoo has received and rehabilitated from the CDFW since 2017. For three of the eighteen, Coloma, Toro, and Silverado, there was space available at Oakland Zoo for them to stay permanently. They can be seen daily by the public in the zoos’ California Trail section, often sharing a large hammock together, showing their close bond.  

Donate to support Oakland Zoo’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program: www.oaklandzoo.org/savewildlife


Isabella Linares, Marketing Manager

Oakland Zoo


Erin Harrison, VP Marketing & Communications

Oakland Zoo




Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.