A mountain lion kitten that was found burned and emaciated amid the 110-square-mile Butte Fire is expected to make a full recovery, state wildlife officials announced this week.
The kitten, thought to be 3 to 4 months old, was discovered Sept. 14 by volunteers rescuing domestic animals from the fire near Mokelumne Hill in Calaveras County, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The little cat had burns and singe marks on his paw pads and around his face, as well as an apparent eye injury.
He was captured without much difficulty and taken to a local veterinary office and then to a state wildlife lab in Rancho Cordova.
The burned pads on his paws could have come from walking across the hot forest floor, the department said.
The area where the kitten was discovered is close to the Butte Fire’s burn area, in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 45 miles southeast of Sacramento (map). The fire has burned more than 800 structures, including 475 homes, since it began Sept. 9, according to Cal Fire. Two people have died.
The mountain lion found at the fire’s edge was considered underweight — at 9.1 pounds — and very fragile. His prognosis was guarded.
But within a week, the baby mountain lion had gained almost 2 pounds and was doing much better. His paws and eyes were healing, and his appetite was increasing every day, the wildlife department said on Facebook.
On Tuesday, the department announced that the kitten was transferred to a private facility in Central California that is capable of caring for mountain lions. After he recovers, the mountain lion will eventually serve as an “educational conservation ambassador to the public,” the department said.
The name of the facility was not immediately released.
The kitten could not be returned to the wild because of the level of care he needed, wildlife officials said.
“CDFW wishes the feline well in its new home and reminds the public that if they find wildlife in distress to call their CDFW Regional office,” the agency said.