A juvenile mountain lion that spent two weeks at the San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Wildlife Center was released back into the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it was announced Friday.
The 1-year-old sub-adult male lion arrived on July 13 after being captured by the CDFW in coordination with Mission Viejo Animal Services in Mission Viejo. There had been repeated reports of sightings in the Orange County neighborhood, leading wildlife officials to capture the mountain lion and bring him to SDHS's Ramona Wildlife Center for evaluation under the care of the organization's Project Wildlife team.
The cougar was released late Thursday night.
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Prior to release, the Project Wildlife veterinary team performed a full exam under sedation that included lab work, X-rays and a dental exam. The patient was treated for parasites, given fluids and monitored by the care team to ensure he was ready to survive on his own in a more suitable area within his home territory.
The Project Wildlife team in Ramona is the first in California to work under the direction of CDFW to rehab mountain lions with the intention of releasing them back into the wild.
"Mountain lions are in many communities in Southern California, but it is important to remember they need to remain wild at heart and not get comfortable around people -- for everyone's safety,'' said Christine Barton, director of operations and wildlife rehabilitation at the SDHS Ramona Campus. " They are special predators, and we are proud to have an expert team trusted by the state of California in this pilot program to care for the species here at the Ramona Wildlife Center.''
Each year, SDHS treats nearly 13,000 injured, orphaned and sick wild animals. In 2020, SDHS announced a new Ramona Campus, where they specialize in caring for native apex predators and birds of prey, including hawks, owls, eagles, coyotes, bears, bobcats and, under special pilot authorization, mountain lions.