OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The Oakland Zoo has welcomed another orphaned mountain lion that will be part of the Zoo’s California Trail exhibit, the third rescued mountain lion cub saved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in just over one month.

The most recent addition to the Oakland Zoo family is also youngest, according to a new press release issued Tuesday. The cub arrived on the night of December 23 in severe critical condition, in even worse shape than the first two cubs brought to the Zoo.

The female kitten was found by a couple along roadside in Coloma in the early morning hours of December 21. The couple told officials she remained in the same spot for hours. When they finally attempted to approach her, the cub attempted to drag herself away but couldn’t due to weakness.

The couple contacted Sierra Wildlife Rescue, who in turn contacted Fish and Wildlife officials to rescue the young cat.

The cub, estimated to be approximately 6-8 weeks of age, arrived at the Oakland Zoo near death, and was unable to stand or walk due to severe dehydration and starvation. Zoo vets said her starvation was so advanced, her body was consuming its own muscle mass.

But following six days of continuous IV fluids and round-the-clock bottle-feedings by Zoo veterinary staff, the kitten began showing signs of life. Vet staff say she is now regularly eating solid foods and showing spunky personality.

Rescued mountain lion cub at Oakland Zoo vet hospital (Credit: Monica Fox)

The CDFW has determined these three cubs cannot be released back in to the wild once they have been rehabilitated as they would have no chance of survival. In addition to providing a home for young rehabilitated mountain lion cubs, the Oakland Zoo works with the conservation organizations like the Mountain Lion Foundation and the Bay Area Puma Project to try and help conserve the species in the wild.

“Mountain lion cubs need up to two years with their mom in order to learn how to survive and thrive. Human survival training is not possible. The Bay Area Puma Project supports Oakland Zoo’s efforts to care for pumas that cannot be released into the wild,” said Executive Director of the Bay Area Puma Project Zara McDonald.

Oakland Zoo helped found BACAT (Bay Area Cougar Action Team) in 2013, an alliance with the Bay Area Puma Project and the Mountain Lion Foundation, to help support the CDFW save mountain lions caught in the human-wildlife conflict.

The still unnamed new kitten will join the other two rescued cubs as part of the Oakland Zoo’s new California Trail expansion that opens in June 2018.

The trio of young mountain lions will serve as ambassadors for human-wildlife conflict education and help ensure the survival of their counterparts in the wild. Their new habitat, designed to mimic their natural setting, is likely the largest mountain lion habitat in the world at 26,000 square feet.