SPOKANE — A 3-week-old mountain lion kitten that was found dehydrated and malnourished on a homeowner’s front porch will get a one-way ticket to a Pennsylvania zoo.
State Fish and Wildlife officers responded to the Kettle Falls homeowner’s call and searched the area for signs of the mother mountain lion, but didn’t find her, said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.
The male kitten was brought to wildlife rehabilitators at Mt. Spokane Veterinary Hospital for treatment, The Spokesman-Review reported.
The baby wildcat will survive but won’t be returned to the wild, Luers said.
“You just don’t rehabilitate an apex predator that’s become fixed on people and release it back into the wild,” she said. “The odds that it would eventually have contact with people or pets are too high.”
Department officials have arranged for the kitten to be transported to ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
There are no fires in the area to offer an easy answer to why the kitten got separated from its mother. So Rich Beausoleil, Fish and Wildlife mountain lion specialist, had three theories:
— Someone found the den and took the kitten while the mother was out hunting.
— The mother mountain lion was killed by a vehicle.
— The mother was illegally shot.
“At three weeks, there should not have been any kitten wanderings away from the den,” he said.
Mountain lion kittens begin nursing within minutes of birth. By two weeks, their eyes have opened and they’re able to walk.
By three weeks, they begin awkwardly exploring their den.
The mother must occasionally leave to hunt. These are the most vulnerable periods for the kittens, which stay with their mothers for 12 to 19 months.