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New feline faces prowl catwalk at BioPark

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Larabee, a male mountain lion cub who was found orphaned in Nebraska, is the newest feline face at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The feline population at the ABQ BioPark Zoo recently grew by two, with the addition of a juvenile and an adult mountain lion.

A male cub named Larabee was discovered in the backyard of a home on Larabee Street in a Nebraska town. A dead female mountain lion, believed to be the cub’s mother, was later found in the area.

The cub was cared for initially by the home’s occupants and later turned over to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which transferred the animal to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The ABQ BioPark Zoo received the cub from the Omaha zoo.

“Larabee is part of the BioPark’s ongoing legacy of helping rescue mountain lion cubs,” said mammal curator Erin Flynn. “We are pleased to welcome him to his new home and to contribute to the conservation of this New Mexico-native big cat in this way.”

Also new to the BioPark Zoo is 10-year-old female mountain lion Gillin, who arrived from the Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo and Adventure Park. Originally from Oregon, Gillin, too, had been a rescue cub.

All mountain lions in facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are rescues from the wild. The AZA does not have a breeding plan for the species because there are so many mountain lions in need of rescue due to hunting and other human encroachment in mountain lion territory, Flynn said.

Mountain lions, common in New Mexico, are also known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts. They are native to the Americas with a range that extends from the Canadian Yukon south into Argentina and Chile – the greatest range of any living mammal in the Americas, according to the National Wildlife Federation website. The ecosystems in which they live are equally wide ranging – from mountains to forests and deserts to wetlands.

Mountain lion populations continue to decline due to habitat shrinkage, hunting and trapping, even though hunting is prohibited across much of its range in Latin America, Canada and in California, the NWF says.

The eastern cougar, a subspecies of mountain lion, was declared officially extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011; Florida panthers, another subspecies of mountain lion, is listed on the endangered species list as “critically endangered.”

Mountain lions stand from 2 to 3 feet tall at the shoulders. Adult males can weigh from 120 to 220 pounds, while adult females are more petite at 65 to 140 pounds. Their bodies are generally covered in tawny-beige fur, though they frequently have a whitish-gray belly and chest.

Solitary and nocturnal, mountain lions hunt at night by stealth and stalking. Their diet includes mammals smaller and larger than themselves, as well as birds, snails and fish. While they do not roar, they often make growling, hissing and purring sounds, similar to house cats. In the wild, mountain lions can live 10 years or longer, and have been known to live to twice that age in captivity, according the NWF.

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Larabee, the mountain lion cub, stretches and yawns in his new catwalk habitat at the ABQ BioPark on Wednesday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

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