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From Idaho to Boston, a cougar kitten finds a new home

 

CougarkittenA cougar kitten, approximately four weeks old, has made the journey from central Idaho to Boston, where he will eventually make his new home at Zoo New England’s Stone Zoo.

Pete Costello, Assistant Curator of Stone Zoo, traveled to Idaho last week to pick up the male kitten and bring him home to Massachusetts. The trip was made possible through coordination with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as well as through the generosity of JetBlue, which provided the travel arrangements and safety oversight.

“Given the challenges he has faced in his first few weeks of life, we are thrilled to be able to provide a home for this kitten. Our staff prepared for his arrival and for the special care that this kitten will need during these early days. An ambassador for his species, our guests will have the unique opportunity to learn more about cougars as they watch him grow up,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “His journey to Boston is the result of a truly collaborative effort. We are incredibly grateful to JetBlue, whose team went above and beyond every step of the way in assuring a smooth travel experience. In honor of all of their support, the new kitten will be named Blue.”

Cougarkitten2Blue, a male kitten weighing 5 pounds, was found near Salmon, Idaho and taken to a local veterinary clinic. The next day, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game returned the kitten to the location where he was found in the hopes that the mother was nearby. Following this attempt to reunite the kitten with his mother, persons unknown found the kitten and it was once again returned to the veterinary clinic. At that time, Idaho Department of Fish and Game determined that the kitten could not be returned back to the wild and that a permanent home would need to be found.

“This late-season kitten emphasizes the need to be diligent about leaving wild babies alone. While the outcome is not what was hoped for, it is the best situation for the kitten under the circumstances,” said Dr. Mark Drew, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Veterinarian.

Cougarkitten3Caring for the kitten will require a lot of dedicated attention by the Zoo’s skilled animal management and veterinary teams. Currently, the kitten is being bottle fed every four to five hours throughout the day. He is being cared for at the Zoo hospital, located at Franklin Park Zoo, for at least the first 30 days. When he is big enough, he will move to his new home at Stone Zoo. He is expected to make his debut in the cougar exhibit within Treasures of the Sierra Madre in winter 2015.

One of the largest of the wild cats in North America, the cougar is also known as a panther, painter, mountain lion, puma and catamount. Although the cougar’s United States range has diminished throughout the last century, they still have the widest distribution of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They range from the Yukon in Canada through the western portion of the United States and a small portion of the eastern United States to Patagonia. Cougars are found in all habitats from lowlands to mountainous regions and from deserts to tropical forests.

Females typically give birth between April and September to one to six kittens, which are born with a spotted coat and blue eyes.

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Images courtesy of Dayle Sullivan-Taylor