Three cougar cubs who were orphaned when a hunter killed their mother in Oregon this winter will arrive at the N.C. Zoo on Sunday.
The cougars – one male and two females – will arrive at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro on a flight provided by LightHawk, an environmental aviation group.
The cougars must complete a 30-day quarantine period before they go on display in the zoo’s cypress swamp exhibit, according to the zoo.
The hunter who shot the cougar in early January was a retired wildlife biologist who recognized he had just killed a lactating mother, according to the Baker City Herald in eastern Oregon. The hunter followed her tracks in the snow and found the den with the cubs inside, according to the newspaper.
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The cougars were taken to the Oregon Zoo, where keepers helped wean them. The keepers say the cubs, who are now about 2 months old, would not have survived on their own.
The N.C. Zoo’s only cougar, 17-year-old Oliver, was euthanized in January after months of declining health. Cougars are considered to be geriatric at around the age of 12, according to the zoo’s news release about his death.
Oliver had been rescued from an illegal owner in Michigan when he was 4 months old and had lived at the zoo since 1997.