Environment

This 3-pound mountain lion cub was thirsty and alone. Then she was rescued by a mailman

What to do if you meet a mountain lion

​​Mountain lions are generally calm, quiet, and elusive. People rarely get more than a brief glimpse of a mountain lion in the wild. Lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than a dozen fatalities in North America in more than 100 years.
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​​Mountain lions are generally calm, quiet, and elusive. People rarely get more than a brief glimpse of a mountain lion in the wild. Lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than a dozen fatalities in North America in more than 100 years.

Residents of rural Lompoc had noticed a small mountain lion cub in their neighborhood, but it wasn’t until a postal worker saw her in the same place two days in a row that he decided something had to be done.

“That’s when it became evident that it wasn’t OK,” said Dori Villalon, operations manager of Santa Barbara County Animal Services. Her agency took in the cougar cub on Wednesday afternoon.

The cub was scheduled to be picked up by Fish and Wildlife Thursday morning to be transported to a rehabilitation facility in San Diego.

While baby animals should generally be left alone, the cub was observed for 24 hours and her mother never came back, Villalon said.

The postal worker, who Villalon did not name, transported the wild cat from Cebada Canyon Road to the shelter by himself, something that Villalon does not recommend. In general, she said, when people come across an abandoned wild animal they should call the experts.

The cub arrived at the Santa Barbara County animal shelter at around 2 p.m. Wednesday.

mountain lion cub.jpg
Courtesy Santa Barbara County Animal Services

“She’s so pretty. We are all very excited to have her here,” Villalon said.

After the cub arrived at the shelter, a registered veteran technician weighed her, gave her some fluids for dehydration and offered her some baby food, which according to Villalon, she liked very much.

“She only weighs about three pounds,” Villalon said. “Because she doesn’t feel very well, she’s very docile.”

It’s not common for Animal Services to take in a wild cat, Villalon said. It’s so rare, in fact, that the mountain lion cub was filed under “domestic cat,” in the facility’s computer system.

In this case, staff at the facility are keeping their distance from the baby cougar with the big paws.

“Our goal with any wild animals, we want to see them get back to the wild,” Villalon said. “She’s in an isolated area. People aren’t going in to see her. I’ve got to tell you though, it’s really hard not to.”

As for the cub’s mother, Villalon said she hasn’t heard of any reports of a dead or injured female adult mountain lion. Female mountain lions hunt and care for their cubs in a territory that is generally small in comparison to the areas claimed by solo adult males.

A few weeks ago, a young adult mountain lion attacked a small dog, and the owner shot the lion and saved the dog, Villalon said.

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found that the deceased cougar had a badly fractured leg, she said, which may explain why he came up so close to humans for prey, because he couldn’t hunt.

Generally, mountain lions are incredibly elusive and stay away from people.

“Thankfully, these encounters are rare,” Villalon said. “As long as we can peacefully coexist, that’s the best thing.”

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