Rescued mountain lion. Courtesy San Diego Humane Society

A young mountain lion who spent four months in the care of the San Diego Humane Society’s wildlife team in Ramona has been released back into the wild, the animal welfare group said Wednesday.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife brought two kittens to the Humane Society to be cared for until they could fend for themselves after their mother was hit by a car and killed in February near the Tijeras Creek Golf Course in Orange County.

The first animal was released on Monday. The second kitten is still recovering from surgery to her left forearm.

The Humane Society team in Ramona is the first in California to work under the state agency’s direction to rehabilitate mountain lion kittens with the intention of releasing them back into the wild.

“We are very excited to have been a part of this pilot program for mountain lion rehab in California, as typically rescued mountain lion kittens are routed for sanctuaries,” said Christine Barton, director of operations and wildlife rehabilitation at the Ramona Wildlife Center. “We hope these few months with us have provided her the extra time needed to fill the void left from losing her mother.”

The local Humane Society said its Project Wildlife is the primary resource for wild animal rehabilitation and conservation education in San Diego County. A new campus that opened in 2020 in Ramona focuses on care for native apex predators and birds of prey, including hawks, owls, eagles, coyotes, bears, bobcats and mountain lions.

State fish and wildlife staff, along with veterinarians from Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital and the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center California Mountain Lion Project, captured the pair for rehabilitation.

Satellite tracking data and remote photographs indicate that the first cat the team rescued, from the Bobcat Fire in 2020, has survived and is doing well since its return to the wild last October.

CDFW senior wildlife veterinarian Dr. Deana Clifford is hoping for similar results with the young lion released this week.

“Although this cat is only 10 months old, she’s consistently behaving like a wild mountain lion,” Clifford noted. “As for any young mountain lion, her chances of survival in the wild are lower than an adult’s, but if she does survive and reproduce she will make an important contribution to the mountain lion population in this region of Southern California.”

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