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Mountain lion cub burned in California fire is rescued by firefighter, treated at zoo

“Unfortunately, a lion this size is too small to be released back into the wild, but we are hopeful ... it will get a second chance as an ambassador for its species," a state veterinarian said.
A mountain lion cub rescued from from the Zogg Fire in Redding, Calif., receives treatment at the Oakland Zoo on Sept. 30, 2020.
A mountain lion cub rescued from from the Zogg Fire in Redding, Calif., receives treatment at the Oakland Zoo on Sept. 30, 2020.Oakland Zoo

A firefighter battling the Zogg Fire in Northern California rescued an orphaned mountain lion cub that had been severely burned.

The male cub weighs less than 4 pounds and is between 4 to 6 weeks old. He is being cared for at the Oakland Zoo.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the zoo said it had named the cub Captain Cal after the mascot for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. He is being treated for burns on his feet.

"He's been eating & looks much better than he did when he arrived," the zoo said.

The cub was found Wednesday in an area scorched by the Zogg Fire near Redding, about 160 miles north of Sacramento.

The zoo said in a press release that after the firefighter found the cub alone, it was turned over to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which asked the zoo for its help in treating the cub.

“We are so grateful for the Oakland Zoo’s expertise, world-class facilities and willingness to step up – on extremely short notice – to help wildlife in need,” the agency's senior wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Deana Clifford, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, a lion this size is too small to be released back into the wild, but we are hopeful that under the Zoo’s care, it will get a second chance as an ambassador for its species," the statement said.

The cub suffered "severe" burns on his paws and his whiskers are completely singed off, Oakland Zoo said. X-rays showed that there is no damage to his lungs or bones.

The zoo said in its press release that Captain Cal is eating on his own and "acting feisty," which it said are signs of improvement.

“We’re grateful to be part of this amazing little cub’s rescue and rehabilitation," said the zoo's veterinary hospital director, Dr. Alex Herman, in a statement. "We’re cautiously optimistic that this cub will now survive and thrive, our dedicated team at Oakland Zoo is fully committed to do everything we can for him and for his beautiful species.”

Mountain lion cubs stay with their mothers until they are about two years old in order to learn how to survive in the wild, according to the zoo. Because Captain Cal was orphaned at such a young age, he will be moved to a "suitable forever home" after he leaves the zoo's hospital, the press release stated.

The Zogg Fire has burned more than 56,300 acres and destroyed 179 structures since it started Sunday in Shasta County. Four people have been killed in the fire that is 57 percent contained.