Three orphaned cougar kittens were captured by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials earlier this month in Oroville along Highway 7.
Locals had reportedly spotted the thin 50 lb cats just outside of town. Officers arrived and found the kittens had been feeding on a deer carcass that had been illegally disposed of.
Over the course of three days, officers were able to catch all three siblings. Unfortunately, one had sustained serious injuries and was euthanized. The other two were transported to a cougar specialist in Wenatchee for temporary holding.
Their ultimate fate is still unknown. Nor is it clear what happened to the kittens' mother.
An adult lion was reportedly killed in the area back in October because residents suspected it had preyed on loose pets. Officials didn't state if it was a female. But if so, it could have been the mother.
Cubs only nurse for the first three months of life but are dependent upon their mother for nearly two years. They spend much of their early life stashed away in bushes or rocky caves while mom goes out to hunt.
Killing an adult female mountain lion often means a death sentence for out of sight kittens.
Washington also allows over 100 lions to be killed for sport from September 1 - April 30 throughout the state. Orphaned kittens are a depressing byproduct of this cruel and outdated hobby.
Until citizens are able to come together to ban the sport hunting of mountain lions, we will continue to see numerous orphaned kitten stories make the news each year. Fortunately in this case, WDFW officers spared the cats a slow and painful death from starvation.