It has been over a year since Oatland Island Wildlife Center said good-bye to its beloved cougar Shanti. Over that time, a number of inquiries have come from the Savannah community wondering when there would be another resident in the Cougar Crossing enclosure. We finally have an answer. Oatland Island is welcoming not one, but two, cougar cubs to the wildlife center and visitors can see them for the first time this weekend!
Part of the Oatland Island Wildlife Center’s mission is “to model good conservation-minded behaviors and practices”. Finding a cougar who needs a home is not an everyday feat. Center staff reached out to the zoological community to let them know that an enclosure was available and then it was a matter of time.
In the fall of 2021, four cougar kittens were found in a backyard in Washington state. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife attempted to relocate the kittens and their mom, but the mother abandoned them. After two days waiting for the mother to return, WDFW, in cooperation with the Oregon Zoo and the Memphis Zoo, intervened to retrieve the kittens, three boys and one girl. When a cougar, also known as a puma or mountain lion, is found orphaned or injured in the wild, a volunteer coordinator with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Puma Monitoring Program is contacted to help place the cub at an appropriate facility to care for them. These cubs were designated to be placed in the care of the Memphis Zoo.
Knowing the kittens would need around-the-clock care for feedings and playtime; and quick transport from Seattle to Memphis, FedEx offered to assist as a part of the company’s FedEx Cares “Delivering for Good” initiative. Shortly after their arrival in Memphis, Oatland Island Wildlife Center’s Veterinarian, Dr. Lesley Mailler, received the call. She says, “The zoological community knew that we had lost our cougar due to illness in 2020 and that we had the facilities for a cougar on standby. They asked if we were interested in taking one of the brothers and the sister. I replied, ‘Of course we would!’ We have missed having Shanti and are excited to see life brought back to the Cougar Crossing exhibit again.”
After OIWC was contacted in November 2021, permits were filed to receive the two cubs. As soon as the permits were authorized, two Oatland staff members drove to Memphis to meet all four cubs and the amazing team that had been taking care of them. The new additions arrived safely to Oatland Island Wildlife Center on December 16, 2021, when they were placed in quarantine as is required of all new Oatland residents. Oatland would like to thank Karen Meeks of White Oak Conservation for helping to facilitate the acquisition. While in quarantine, they had the opportunity to explore their new surroundings and build relationships with the staff. They love to play with plushy toys and ropes and climb on top of the crate and logs within their enclosure.
Two months after their arrival, the cub’s blue eyes are nearly gone, and their spots are fading. The animal care staff at Oatland have come to know their personalities very well and describe the little girl as the leader. She is very confident, independent, inquisitive, and is always chattering and purring to the staff. The little boy is shy and much more reserved. He takes his time in making decisions and is a bit wary of any change or new thing, but he loves to play with his sister.
Oatland Island staff are thrilled to announce that both cougar cubs are now available for public viewing at the Cougar Crossing exhibit. They are currently not named, and Oatland, in conjunction with Friends of Oatland Island (FOO), is holding a special fundraiser to help us name them. For a donation of $5 at the FOO website, (www.friendsofoatland.org), two names may be submitted for consideration.
A special Baby Shower event will be held at the Cougar Crossing exhibit all day this Sunday, February 27th, 2022. The exhibit will be decorated, and cake and punch will be served from 11am – 1pm. Symbolic cougar adoptions will also be available
Please join all the staff at Oatland Island Wildlife Center in welcoming our new additions!