80-Pound Cougar Rescued from NYC Apartment, Will Enter Sanctuary

by Matthew Memrick

The captivity of an 80-pound cougar in an NYC apartment has ended with the animal heading to an Arkansas sanctuary.

And no, there wasn’t a cougar king or a Tiger King involved for that matter.

The Humane Society of the United States and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation removed the 11-month-old female cougar. New York Police, and Bronx Zoo officials also helped in the removal.

According to a press release, Bronx Zoo officials accepted the cougar for immediate care. After a short stay, the cougar heads to the Turpentine Creek sanctuary in Arkansas for “lifelong care.”

One Humane Society director said she’s never seen a cougar in the wild, but unfortunately, she’s seen them usually in a human’s helter-skelter captivity setup.

“I’ve seen them on leashes, smashed into cages, and crying for their mothers when breeders rip them away,” Kelly Donithan said.

The HSUS’s director of animal disaster response said she’s distraught owners who have “a false dream that they could make (a cougar) a good ‘pet.'”

Donithan added that it was fortunate that recent owners realized that the cat wasn’t fit to live in the apartment.

HSUS president and CEO Kitty Block said owning a big cat is prohibited in New York state. Still, individuals can quickly bring in cougars from other states because of improper enforcement and lax laws. 

New York Police Department officials thanked those who removed the cougar and said the case is currently under review with no additional information available at this time.

Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said that the zoo was “glad to assist agencies working to rescue the cougar.”

He also said the zoo was happy to help with the cat’s care until her transfer to Arkansas.

Cougars Are Tough To Care For

Turpentine Creek animal curator Emily McCormick told the New York Daily News that female cougars could live from 12 to 17 years in captivity and grow up to 140 pounds. 

McCormick said the animal eats raw meat. In the wild, they eat deer and smaller animals like coyotes, porcupines, and raccoons. They usually hunt at night, dusk, or dawn.

Big Cat Rescue estimated that keeping a cougar as a pet can cost about $25,000 in your first year. Annually, the cat would cost around $7,500. Some veterinarian visits can cost upwards of $20,000 per visit.

Another Cougar in 2003

The Humane Society also mentioned another cougar rescue from a New York City residence. Rescuers took an adult tiger from a Harlem apartment in 2003. In 2004, a father’s pet leopard attacked a 5-year-old child.

In 2019, New York officials cracked down on exotic pet owners. The new rules meant to expand the definition of dangerous animals. It took aim at private ownership of capuchin monkeys, arctic foxes, raccoons, skunks, and other wildlife.