The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently welcomed a litter of orphaned Mountain Lion cubs. The cubs, two males and a female, are approximately ten-weeks-old and arrived at the OKC Zoo in late January after being rescued from the wild.
Born in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Mountain Lion cubs were found by game officials with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Realizing the cubs’ mother was deceased and they were too young to survive on their own, game officials immediately intervened and began providing 24/7 care for the orphaned cubs. They also contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to locate a permanent home for the litter because recovered cubs cannot return to the wild according to South Dakota state protocol.
Learning of the cubs’ situation, the OKC Zoo made the decision to take in the litter and provide a forever home for both male cubs at its Oklahoma Trails habitat. The female cub will be relocating to AZA-accredited Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas later this summer, but will remain with her brothers at the OKC Zoo until then.
“By bringing these orphaned cubs to the OKC Zoo and providing them with the care, veterinary monitoring and enriching environment needed to thrive we are ensuring their survival.” said Tyler Boyd, OKC Zoo animal curator. “Since it opened in 2007, Oklahoma Trails has been home to Mountain Lions, and we are excited to watch these brothers grow and become beloved ambassadors for the habitat. We want to connect our guests to the importance of caring for native wildlife and wild places, and communicate why it’s vital to protect both.”
The male cubs were given the names Toho, meaning “cougar god”, and Tanka, from Wakan Tanka meaning “great spirit” in the Lakota language. The female cub has been named, Tawakoni, which is inspired by the Wichita tribe and means “river bend among red sand hills.”
According to the Zoo, all three cubs are in good health and weighed 9-10 lbs. at their last check. Once the cubs complete their 30-day quarantine at the OKC Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, they will be on public view at the Oklahoma Trails exhibit.
The Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) is known by many names including catamount, cougar, panther or puma. Native to the Americas, Mountain Lions once roamed most of the United States including Oklahoma, but now the largest populations inhabit the western U.S.
Impressive in size and strength, Mountain Lions are considered apex predators meaning they are not prey to any other animals. These large carnivores are built for hunting and actually help control deer and other animal populations from reaching unhealthy levels. Adults are recognized for their solid tawny coats but cubs are born with spots that vanish before they are a year old. Cubs are also born with blue eyes that change to yellow around 16-18 months old.