Mountain lion rehabbed from wildfire burns dies months after being released to wilderness


The female mountain lion rescued last year with her four paws badly burned in the Bobcat Fire has died, some 10 months after being released back to the wild, state officials said Sunday, in a reminder that California’s fierce wildfires impact not only human lives and livelihoods but also devastate wildlife.

Wildlife officials believe the cougar, nicknamed Monrovia after being found near the Los Angeles County city of that name in the San Gabriel Mountain foothills, died around Aug. 15 in the mountains of her namesake. After being rehabilitated she had been outfitted with a satellite tracking collar around her neck. It indicated she died about 10 months after her release, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials.

Despite the mountain lion’s death, officials called Monrovia’s rescue and rehabilitation a success story amid record wildfire seasons in California that have ravaged wildlife.

The mountain lion was rescued in September 2020 as the Bobcat Fire burned more than 115,000 acres of Southern California. She was treated for burns on her feet, rehabilitated and released back into the wild in October 2020.

During her second chance, she claimed a territory in the San Gabriel Mountains, spanning about 67 square miles from Azusa to Burbank. Officials, tracking her with her collar and spotting her on trail cameras, watched a healthy cat. In one video, she was seen walking with a male cat, officials said.

Officials said they were able to confirm Monrovia successfully hunted and killed a deer during the period following her release.

Wildlife officials found her body at the bottom of a deep canyon, not far from where she was first found injured. A field necropsy did not lead to a determination of how she died, but the tracking data showed she lived within the wildland urban interface for nearly a year without any human-cougar contact in the suburban San Gabriel foothills.

“Life can be treacherous for mountain lions in the wild,” state Fish and Wildlife officials said in a statement. “They can succumb to vehicular strikes, fights with other lions, accidents while trying to kill prey, poaching and other hazards.”

When she was rescued in 2020, biologists estimated her age at about 6 to 7 years old. In the wild, mountain lions live up to 10 years.

Monrovia wasn’t the first high-profile rescue of an animal hurt by California’s savage wildfires. In August, a six-month-old bear cub — nicknamed Tamarack after a wildfire that blasted across Sierra Nevada terrain south of Lake Tahoe — was rescued with burns on its front paws. He was treated and fed, but escaped from his rescue center. Officials later said he was found in the wild, and they decided to leave him alone.

Wildfires, however, often don’t spare animals. In September, a bear suffered major burns to its paws during the Caldor Fire and was found limping in the fire zone. With flames bearing down on it, state officials euthanized that bear to spare it being burned to death.

Matthias Gafni is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @mgafni