Sara Penhallegon was going about her morning chores when she discovered an unregistered guest at the animal shelter she runs.
Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene, Washington, is a no-kill shelter that aims to rescue, rehabilitate, and find homes for a wide variety of animals. Despite all her years of experience, Sara was not prepared for the sight that greeted her that day.
A young cougar had crawled into one of the rehab’s outdoor cages and curled up in a pile of hay. Sara said the big cat had “made itself at home,” but upon closer inspection, she realized how sick the poor creature was.
The cub appeared to be about 50 pounds underweight, coming in at just 34 pounds. In other words, it was literally starving to death. “I suspect it was going there to die, considering the condition it was in,” Sara added.
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But by some miracle, the cougar discovered the perfect place to get help! Sara and her team launched into action, hoping to save the brave cat’s life.
Experts gave the animal a 10 percent shot of pulling through, but with plenty of compassionate care and good food, the feline started getting better. It put on 10 pounds right away and grew stronger and feistier with every passing day.
Sara and her team theorize that the cougar’s mother must have died before she could teach her cub how to hunt for food.
Normally, a cub stays with its mama for 18 to 36 months before forging its own path. Without knowing how to care for itself, there was no way this little one could have survived on its own.
After two weeks of care, Sara knew it was time for the cat to return to the wild. For starters, the cougar began destroying its enclosure by chewing the walls apart!
“It started getting feisty and it would hiss and growl at me every time I walked over,” Sara explained. “That was a very good sign.”
Since the cougar still didn’t have the necessary skills to survive on its own, Sara found a natural habitat zoo in Texas for it. While it’s not as ideal as sending a rehabilitated animal back into the wild, it still saved a life that would have otherwise ended in tragedy.
“Obviously, our goal is to return animals to the wild, but the next best option is a really good captive placement with a great facility that can take care of its needs,” she said. “And that’s what we have for this one.”
Of all the places this cougar could have curled up to sleep, how did it manage to pick the one that could nurse it back to health? This is one lucky cat!
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