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Mountain lion cub released into wild following recovery from broken leg

A mountain lion cub struck by a car late last year has been released into the wild following seven months of rehabilitation at the San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Wildlife Center.

The young male was released by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on June 26 in Ventura County, fitted with a satellite GPS collar for tracking.

The five-month-old cat came to San Diego Humane Society on Thanksgiving Day 2023. According to the San Diego Humane Society (SDHS), he had presumably been hit by a vehicle the night before Thanksgiving and found on the side of a road in Simi Valley. Local animal services alerted Fish and Wildlife, which transported the cub to Santa Clarita, where veterinarians provided initial medical support.


He then arrived at Project Wildlife, a part of the SDHS, where X-rays found a fractured hind leg. He was also treated for dehydration, malnourishment. The veterinary team repaired the animal's left tibia, using a metal plate and 10 screws to realign the bones.

“They essentially placed a plate into this cat’s leg, to stabilize it and help it heal. Not only as it healed but as he continues to grow,” said Angela Hernandez-Cusick, the wildlife rehabilitation supervisor with Project Wildlife.

The mountain lion was monitored via cameras in an indoor hospital enclosure, limiting human interaction and movement that could risk damage to the surgery site.

Vets then performed a second surgery to revise the placement of the screws. The cub needed additional time to recover but was able to move to an outdoor enclosure for continued rehabilitation in mid-December.

In January, veterinarians confirmed the fracture was healing well.


"This patient was a very special case because his surgeries involved a unique collaboration between Project Wildlife veterinarians and shelter veterinarians," said Dr. Jon Enyart, senior director of Project Wildlife at SDHS.

According to Project Wildlife, it was crucial for the cub to be fully recovered before his release, as mountain lions are apex predators. In the wild, mountain lion cubs may stay with their mothers up to 26 months, but usually separate after about 15 months.

Vehicle accidents are a common cause of death for all large fauna in California, from mule deer to mountain lions.

Fraser Shilling, the director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis, estimates between 200 and 300 mountain lions are killed on California roads every year, and that’s about 5% of their population.

“That’s a lot for a carnivore. For a big animal like a mountain lion. They don't have a very fast reproductive rate. They need a lot of territory. So that’s a very high rate of mortality from any human cause and possibly unsustainable,” Shilling said.

Shilling added the only way to prevent those traffic deaths is to drive less, drive slower or put up wildlife barriers along the most dangerous roadways.

At the Ramona Campus, which they have been operating since 2020, SDHS cares for native apex predators and birds of prey, including hawks, owls, eagles, coyotes, bears and bobcats.

As wild animals go, mountain lions are, of course, iconic. But Hernandez-Cusick said Project Wildlife doesn’t discriminate. If an injured skunk or possum shows up in their clinic they will treat and nurse them back to health as well.