A mountain lion that roamed parts of the west side of Springfield in October is doing well at an Indiana facility specializing in treating and caring for big cats.
Joe Taft, director of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana, said the 2-year-old male mountain lion adjusted quickly to life at the facility in the weeks after he arrived after being captured in Springfield.
“He’s a little apprehensive about everything,” Taft said. “But he’s adjusting much better than I would have expected.”
The cougar reached Springfield on Oct. 26, having traveled from Nebraska where it was part of a research project conducted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Officials with that agency put a GPS collar on the cat, providing them with details on his movements.
For two days, the cougar moved through parts of the west side of town, with officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources asking people to keep their distance. Despite the warnings, IDNR, the USDA, Illinois Conservation Police and the Springfield Police Department deemed that the cat had entered parts of the city in which he could threaten both people and property.
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At that point, Taft and the EFRC were contacted to provide a safe place for the cat to stay as he was treated. After law enforcement sedated him, they transported him to the EFRC where Taft and his staff were waiting to take care of the animal.
“We had to re-immobilize it to take it out of their transport facilities and put it in one of our transport cages,” Taft said. “We kept him in a transport cage for three days while we had an enclosure that had formerly housed three cougars, but they were all captive-bred cougars. So, we wanted to go over this cage very thoroughly on the assumption that he would challenge this cage in substantial ways.”
Taft said that the cat struggled to eat for the first day, barely moving a muscle with everything revolving around him. By the time the third day came around, however, Taft said that the cougar’s appetite returned and it is now eating normally.
“By the third day he started moving around the enclosure,” Taft said. “He found one of the den boxes where he felt safe and secure (and) started eating. His appetite switched to regular, ‘Feed me every day, please.'”
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With the big cat continuing to settle in the facility, Taft said the center plans to build a larger enclosure for him, with plenty of places for him to climb, hide and run through. In order for that part to become a reality, EFRC is asking for donations in order to build the new cage, which will cost up to $50,000.
Those seeking to donate can log onto EFRC’s website and click on its donation button, which will take them to a link where they can provide money in a traditional format or over PayPal.
While EFRC is a public facility where people have the ability to tour the grounds, the newest addition will not be shown off any time soon. The new enclosure is secluded from the touring public.
“He will be quite a ways removed from the areas where we usually bring people to,” Taft said.