Chief Alfred Joseph of the Ktunaxa First Nation Akisq’nuk Band gives the cougar kitten the name “Hoodoo swaʔ”. Hoodoo for the location where the animal was found and swaʔ which means “cougar” in the Ktunaxa language. Submitted photo

Cougar kitten rescued

Cougar sent to Greater Vancouver Zoo

Take Down Tales by BC Conservation Officer Sgt. Drew Milne

On the morning of Wednesday February 7th, 2018, Invermere Conservation Officer Service [COS] received a call from their RAPP Line Call Center with details from a concerned citizen that discovered an injured cougar kitten on the Westside Road south of the Hoodoo Recreation Trail parking area. The information provided to the COS was that the cougar has been struck by a vehicle and now immobile and suffering.

Conservation Officer Greg Kruger attended the scene and met with the complainant and staff from the nearby SHAW cable compound. The concerned citizens had the cougar kitten wrapped in and restrained by a jacket beside the road. CO Kruger examined the animal and noted the head trauma on its right side from the vehicle collision and was struggling to breathe. CO Kruger loaded the cougar into a transport kennel and took it to the Invermere Veterinary Hospital. Vet hospital staff immediately provided medical care for the cougar including medication to help reduce the intense head swelling, damage to one eye and X-rays; which thankfully revealed no broken bones. The primary medical concern was the possibility of internal damage and head trauma. CO Kruger and the Vet decided to give the 5-6 month old cat a chance, keep the animal warm and hydrated to see how it responded. The cougar was held at the Vet Hospital over the next few days where it was continually assessed and treated as possible.

Miraculously, the female improved and as time went on the head swelling and eye damage reduced and began to heal. Once she started to walk and feed on her own she was moved from the Vet Hospital to their Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Flight Cage. There was still concern for her well-being as she still had difficulty seeing out of the injured eye and she still wasn’t able to walk completely straight. The kitten was constantly monitored, given a steady diet of high protein food and kept warm and dry in the facility.

With a sensitive amount of time passing by, CO Kruger and the Vet’s original hope to reunite the kitten with its mother passed. Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Helen Schwantje was then consulted as the cougar was very young and questions were raised if the kitten would be able to survive on its own without having mother to teach it how to hunt. A joint determination was made that the cougar should not be released on its own and Dr. Schwantje canvassed suitable facilities to house the animal. The Greater Vancouver Zoo stepped up and accepted this cougar as they have the space and staff to ensure she will be able to live out her life in a healthy environment.

Much to the surprise of the vet and COS, this cougar kitten did not show any fear or aggression towards people, which is extremely rare for a wild cat. While young cougars can be both aggressive and not aggressive the behaviour may have been a result of the head trauma or the fact that people were in close contact with it, causing some degree of habituation from the nurturing – or both.

Eventually, under the care of the Invermere Veterinary Hospital staff and the COS the juvenile cougar has appeared to have made a full recovery.

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