In honor of two of our newest Zoo Borns, Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo’s featured animal for April is the Mountain Lion. We sat down with Operations Director, Emily Jaffe, to talk about these adorable creatures, and answer some questions submitted by our Facebook and Instagram followers.
Before we get started talking about our Mountain Lions, tell us a little about you.
I’ve been at Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo for over a year now. Before that, I managed a 260-acre safari park in Florida, and before that I worked at a private carnivore conservation facility in North Carolina. I’ve worked with a variety of animals from carnivores, to birds, to primates, to hoofstock, even reptiles. But since I got my start in the zoo field with carnivores, that’s always been my favorite. Before coming to AWSFZ, I had worked with all kinds of carnivores — lions, tigers, servals, etc.; however, I had never worked with mountain lions.
Tell us about the new mountain lion babies!
They are the absolute cutest! Sarah, one of our adult mountain lions, gave birth to this adorable little brother/sister pair at the beginning of March. Sarah is a really good mom, so she took great care of them from day one. Even though mom was able to raise them on her own, we still performed daily wellness checks on the babies. Basically, we separated mom from the cubs every morning, did a visual exam on them to make sure they didn’t have any injuries, got hands on them to feel for any weird lumps or bumps, and then weighed them to make sure they were growing at the right speed. Because of these daily checks, the babies are very well adjusted. We’ve started taking them into our nursery exhibit twice a day to get used to big crowds, and they are doing great! Their favorite activities are playing soccer with their blue ball, and rolling around and wrestling with each other.
When will they be on exhibit?
Our adult mountain lions can be seen on exhibit every single day. We also do a Carnivore Feeding Show daily where you can not only watch them scarf down their diet, but also learn some pretty cool facts about them. The babies are having “playdates” in the nursery every day at 11am and 3:30pm. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, as those times may change as they get a little bit older.
Instagram user Fernando asks, “Are they still nursing?”
Yes and no. They are at that age where they are being weaned. That means that they are still nursing, but experimenting more and more with solid foods. Right now, they are nibbling on ground turkey with a special vitamin supplement on top. They also occasionally eat something called Nebraska Diet. It’s a ground meat mixture that’s specially designed for our exotic carnivores.
Amy from Facebook asks, “What do mountain lions eat?”
Mountain Lions are carnivores, so they eat other animals. In their natural habitat, they would eat things like deer, coyotes, raccoons, rodents, and even porcupines! Here at the Zoo, they get a variety of different types of meat like chicken, beef, turkey, and Nebraska Diet.
Facebook user Jacy asks “How big do mountain lions get?”
The size of a mountain lion depends on the gender. Males tend to get a bit larger, maxing out at over 200lbs! Females tend to be a bit more petite, usually weighing no more than 140lbs.
Where can you find mountain lions in the wild?
Right here in Texas! And lots of other places in North and South America. In fact, mountain lions have the largest range of any wild land animal in the Americas. It can be found as far north as the Yukon in Canada, all the way down to the southern Andes. Mountain lions are extremely adaptable animals, which is why you can find them in so many different areas.
What is your favorite thing about the mountain lions?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say my favorite thing about our mountain lions is that they have such unique personalities. Or the fact that they can purr. That’s actually what characterizes them as a “small cat” vs. a “big cat” (like a lion or a tiger who can roar). It is so cool to see this giant fierce predator purr like a house cat when you give them a cardboard box to play with. It’s adorable.