Tuesday, February 22, 2022
It has been over a year since Oatland Island Wildlife Center said good-bye to its beloved cougar Shanti. In that time, the Savannah community has been wondering when we were going to get another resident in the Cougar Crossing enclosure, and we finally have an answer. Oatland Island is welcoming not one, but two, cougar cubs to the wildlife center. Part of Oatland's mission is "to model good conservation-minded behaviors and practices". Finding a cougar who needs a home is not an everyday feat and it was a matter of reaching 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. Oatland would like to thank Karen Meeks of White Oak Conservation for helping to facilitate the acquisition.
While in quarantine, which is required of all new Oatland residents, they explored their surroundings and were very inquisitive of the staff and their new surroundings. They love to play with plushy toys and ropes and climb on top of their 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 and Friends of Oatland Island (FOO) are thrilled to announce that both cougar cubs will be on public viewing at the Cougar Crossing exhibit starting on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022, at 10am. They are currently not named, and Oatland, in conjunction with 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. Symbolic cougar adoptions are also available through the FOO website!
Also, a special Baby Shower event will be held at the Cougar Crossing exhibit all day on Sunday, February 27th, 2022. Come out to see "Cub #1" and "Cub #2", submit a pair of names, and take home a cougar stuffed animal with a symbolic adoption!
Please join all the staff at Oatland Island Wildlife Center and the FOO Board in welcoming our new additions! We can't wait for you to meet them.