By Ryan Okrant
Holly and Hazel have become rather famous throughout the greater Bay Area. The recently rescued puma cubs have been introduced to each other and will now be lifelong playmates. The Oakland Zoo announced the pair will transition to their forever home at Big Bear Alpine Zoo in Southern California later this month.
Puma Cub 4606
A lesser-known story is that of a third cub that was also rescued around the same time as Holly and Hazel. The Oakland Zoo labeled him 4606 and his story is much different.
Puma cubs are born year-round and are dependent on their mothers until they are at least two years of age. According to Oakland Zoo senior veterinarian, Ryan Sadler, DVM DACSM, cubs will breastfeed for 3 to 6 months depending on a variety of factors but predominantly, they rely on the available prey for their mothers to catch; the more prey available, the longer the mothers will breastfeed. Pumas, also known as mountain lions, are native to the Santa Cruz Mountains and have intertwined their existence with growing human populations. Zara McDonald, a co-founder of Bay Area Puma Project, a 501(c)(3) organization, explained that their nonprofit was founded in order to gather data for a long-term research and conservation study. McDonald added, “Coexistence is really dependent on public tolerance levels and sentiments towards pumas. BAPP’s goal has been to make the public comfortable with conservation around pumas and with the idea of coexisting in habitats that have become degraded and fragmented from human development and activities.”
Cub 4606 was discovered on December 30th, 2022 by an aware homeowner in Felton, California. The cub was tucked away under the steps of a deck, seemingly abandoned during the onslaught of storms which had just begun to pound the Santa Cruz Mountains. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) responded and brought 4606 to the Oakland Zoo; he was believed to be 6-7 weeks old. Sadler stated, “He didn’t have severe weight loss and had relatively normal vital parameters. We did not see anything on that animal that would’ve told us that this animal would not be able to support itself like we saw with Holly and Hazel.” Shortly after his arrival, during the New Year’s holiday weekend, 4606’s mother was seen and heard searching for her cub. Quick actions by BAPP and the Oakland Zoo made it possible to get 4606 back to Felton on January 1st, 2023. McDonald shared that “at 1:30 am, mom came through, possibly for the last time before giving up, and luckily reunited with the cub. They took off together.” Everyone involved in this reunion expressed great satisfaction for 4606 to be back in the wild with his mom.
While not every cub is suitable to be returned to the wild — and the discussions which go into these decisions are extensive and complicated — our community is lucky to have so many puma advocates to guide the decision-making process in the best ways possible. Sadler said that pumas are “uniquely part of California’s ecosystem. Having them in our backyards is something to be proud of.”
What can you do if you see a puma cub? Submit a wildlife incident report which goes directly to CDFW biologists at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir or call (707) 428-2002.
Ryan Okrant was born and raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He is passionate about animals of all kinds and is always willing to help those in need. Ryan is co-founder and Executive Director of ASSERT Drone Animal Rescue www.assert.earth. Email: email@example.com
Featured photo of a Santa Cruz Mountains puma (Via the Oakland Zoo)