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Orphaned mountain lion cubs form bond at Oakland Zoo

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A smaller female and larger male mountain lion cub are seen in this undated handout photo provided by the Oakland Zoo.

Two recently orphaned mountain lion cubs from different locations in Northern California are now playing and bonding at Oakland Zoo, zoo officials said Monday.

The cubs, a male and a female, are both 9 to 10 weeks old and are being tended around the clock by Oakland Zoo veterinarians, zoo officials said.

The female cub was found last month in Lake County after a property owner heard chirps that sounded like a bird for about a week. The cubs make the chirping sound when they are calling for their mother, according to zoo officials.

The property owner finally reported the cub to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife when its health seemed to be deteriorating. The severely dehydrated cub was emaciated and covered with parasites and burrs. It was initially placed with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.

Officials believe a car about 5 miles away may have killed the cub’s mother.

Amy Gotliffe, director of conservation at Oakland Zoo, said:

“While we don’t know for sure what caused this female cub to become orphaned, we do know that one of the biggest threats to mountain lions in California is traffic, with 107 animals killed by automobiles in 2016 alone.”

The female cub was transferred to the Oakland Zoo on Oct. 11, and was carefully introduced to the male cub, which had arrived in late September.

The male cub was orphaned after its mother was fatally shot by a property owner under a legal kill order, because the animal was killing sheep in the area, officials said.

The male cub is now at 20 pounds and the female cub is smaller at 8.4 pounds. The zoo has released video and photos of the two animals wrestling, playing and sleeping together.

Dr. Karen Emanuelson, the zoo’s director of veterinary services, said:

“We’re happy that these two cubs are doing very well, although it’s heartbreaking they were orphaned. … We saw first-hand how much our now-older mountain ions enjoyed, needed and bonded with each other as orphaned cubs themselves, so we are very glad these two cubs are providing companionship to each other as well.”

Because the two cubs were orphaned too young to have survival skills to be released, they will be permanently placed at a facility when they are strong enough, according to the zoo.

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