Orphaned cougar from Idaho finds home in Oregon

Orphaned cougar from Idaho finds home in Oregon
Paiute, an orphaned cougar from Idaho, explores his new home at the Oregon Zoo. Keepers expect the young cougar will be ready to make his zoo debut by early summer. Photo by Kristine Torres, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An orphaned young cougar whose mother was legally killed near Preston, Idaho, has found a new home at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

Paiute (PIE'-yoot) was rescued by Idaho Fish and Game, which contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' puma population manager, Michelle Schireman at the Oregon Zoo.

She helps game agents across the country find permanent homes for such orphaned cubs at accredited zoos.

She says the young cougar is getting used to his new home and is being introduced to Chinook, the zoo's adult female cougar. Schireman expects he'll be ready to make his public debut by early summer.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


Paiute, an orphaned cougar from Idaho, explores his new home at the Oregon Zoo. Keepers expect the young cougar will be ready to make his zoo debut by early summer. Photo by Kristine Torres, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

From the Oregon Zoo

An orphaned cougar from Idaho has a new home at the Oregon Zoo. Paiute (pronounced “PIE-yoot”) was orphaned as a cub after his mother had been legally killed near Preston, Idaho. He was rescued by Idaho Fish and Game, who contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ puma population manager, Michelle Schireman at the Oregon Zoo, for help in placing the animal at an accredited institution.

Schireman, a keeper in the Great Northwest section of the zoo, assists game agents from across the country in finding permanent homes for orphaned cubs at accredited zoos. When needed, the zoo provides veterinary care, quarantine facilities and, in this case, a permanent home for orphaned wildlife.

“My position with the AZA allows me to step in and find great homes for cubs like Paiute,” Schireman said. “AZA zoos have an aging cougar population, but due to the number of orphans needing homes every year our facilities have not needed to breed cougars for over 15 years. It is really a win-win situation.”

Paiute is acclimating to his new home and is being introduced to Chinook, the zoo’s adult female cougar. Animal introductions always require a careful and deliberate process, and Schireman expects Paiute will be ready to make his debut by early summer.

“We take every precaution to make sure our animals are healthy and happy,” Schireman said. “Although Paiute is doing well, he still needs some time to get acquainted with his new home.” 

Cougars –– also known as mountain lions, pumas and (in Florida) panthers –– live mostly in the western United States and Canada. They weigh from 75 to 130 pounds and have a carnivorous diet both in the wild and at the zoo. Females are either pregnant or raising cubs for the majority of their lives. After three months of gestation, two to three cubs are usually born in a litter and live with their mother for up to two years.

With the exception of the Florida panthers, cougars are not listed as endangered, but they do face many challenges in other parts of the country due to human encroachment and habitat destruction.

The zoo is a service of Metro, and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. With award-winning programs in conservation, exhibits, education and animal enrichment, the zoo is a national leader in animal welfare and wildlife preservation. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save many endangered and threatened species, including California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid’s lupine.

The zoo opens at 8 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.