1 year later: Cubs rescued from 2020 wildfire now thriving at Ohio zoo

Local News

(KTXL) — 2020 was a record-setting fire season in California. The acres burned, the lives lost and homes destroyed all made headlines — and rightly so.

But we don’t hear as much about the toll these fires take on wildlife. Every now and then, we get to see what happens when humanity crosses paths with an animal in the ashes and gives them a fighting chance.

That’s what happened with the cougar cub named “Captain Cal”, after the Cal Fire mascot. He was rescued from the 2020 Zogg Fire in Shasta County.

From there, fish and wildlife authorities brought him to the Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital with singed fur and severe burns on all fur paws.

He went through rehabilitation like a champ.

And two other cubs, orphaned because of a fire, were brought in to be nourished to health alongside him.

The Oakland Zoo didn’t have the space to keep them permanently. With all the human contact, releasing them into the wild was not a good option.

A call for help was answered about 25,000 miles away, in Ohio.

“They’re going to their forever home at Columbus Zoo and we’re just grateful, so happy that we could fix Cal’s medical woes, really heal his burned feet and resolve his anemia and infection and life-threatening disease that he came in with,” said Columbus Zoo Animal Keeper Jennifer Trevis.

Trevis said the cubs have bonded as a group, so it was important to keep them together in Columbus.

In the year since their move, the Columbus Zoo has been sharing the cubs’ progress on YouTube.

“We spent many sleepless nights here with them, just making sure and monitoring them and giving them things to do differently,” Trevis said.

And, ready or not, here’s what they look like today:

“They’re just over a year now will continue growing to about two years old, so they have a little ways to grow,” Trevis said.

The cubs have been successfully introduced to the zoo’s existing mountain lion, 17-year-old Jessie.

FOX40 reached out to Cal Fire, trying to find the firefighter who first rescued Cal. The spokesperson made several calls, but no one knew who it was.

Regardless, it’s nice to know — somewhere out there — a humble hero lifted a tiny cougar from the verge of death/ From the forests of Shasta County, to the zoos in Oakland and Columbus, a chain of heroes made sure Captain Cal and his adopted siblings will thrive.

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