On Monday, Feb. 27, Joy Covey, a LightHawk volunteer pilot from Woodside, Calif., had some very special guests aboard her Pilatus PC-12: Two orphaned, injured mountain lion cubs, who needed to be taken to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The brother and sister were captured at the end of January by the California Department of Fish and Game after their mother was killed near San Jose. Estimated to be about 12 weeks old at the time, the female cub weighed only 7 pounds and had bite wounds to her back right hamstring and several broken teeth. She was emaciated, weak and covered with fleas and ticks. It was later discovered that she had two broken legs and a broken jaw. An employee of the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary in Folsom, Calif., provided around-the-clock care at her home to the cubs, who are recovering well. The zoo is unable to keep both mountain lion cubs due to budget cuts.
Because the cubs, known as Cypress and Ash, were so bonded and had been through so much, zoo officials hoped they could stay together. The zoo worked with California Fish and Game and Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) in Scottsdale to transfer the two to SWCC, the only facility that could give the California cubs a home together.
“It took a lot people working together to save the lives of these beautiful young mountain lions,” says Linda Searles, Founder and Executive Director of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. “We rely on collaborative relationships like those we have with LightHawk, the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, California Fish and Game and other conservation groups.”
“The donated flight will move these mountain lion kittens to their new home without the stress of commercial air travel or a 15-hour drive,” explains Rudy Engholm, Executive Director of LightHawk. “And the volunteer pilot will have the bragging rights of carrying some pretty cute passengers.”
The cubs — which can grow to more than 100 pounds as adults — will eventually live in a large enclosure with other mountain lions at Southwest Wildlife.
LightHawk, North America’s largest and oldest volunteer-based environmental aviation organization, provides donated flights in private aircraft to elevate conservation efforts. LightHawk flies more about 1,000 missions each year for over 250 conservation partners in North America and Central America. LightHawk’s staff works with more than 200 volunteer pilots to design aerial campaigns that help conservation groups, universities, government agencies, and individuals protect land, water and wildlife.
For more information: LightHawk.org
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