Orphaned cougar cub is healthy and ready for new home at North Carolina Zoo.

Global Aviation made room in its hangar and provided fuel for some special furry friends in need of air travel on March 3, 2014.  Three orphaned cougar cubs were leaving the Oregon Zoo’s care to journey to their new home, the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C.

The triplet cougars – one male and two females – were found shortly after their mother had been shot by a hunter in Eastern Oregon. The very small, hungry and scared cubs were soon delivered to the Oregon Zoo’s veterinary staff.

The cubs weighed just a couple of pounds each, had yet to cut their teeth, and their eyes were still cloudy blue and unable to focus. Zoo veterinary staff and keepers took shifts to make sure the little ones received around-the-clock care with feedings every four hours.

After six weeks at the Oregon Zoo, the cubs are now playful and healthy. However, without a mother to guide them, the cubs cannot return to the wild.  Michelle Schireman, Oregon Zoo keeper and Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) species coordinator for cougars, found a new home for all three cubs at the North Carolina Zoo.

“It’s wonderful to feel like you’re doing something to help babies that in the wild wouldn’t survive,“ said Schireman, who has found homes for more than 100 cougar cubs in zoos around the country.

Oregon Zoo keeper Michelle Schireman cares for orphan cougar cubs in the Veterinary Medical Center. Photo by Michael Durham.

Transporting the cubs takes the generous efforts of a team of volunteers led by LightHawk, a non-profit dedicated to conservation in North and Central America for nearly 35 years.  LightHawk provides wildlife survival flights to ensure sensitive animals have a quiet, temperature controlled, and quick flight without the delays and hassles of security and baggage claim.

“It takes the stress out of the handling and transport of the animals, and they get to their destination as soon as possible,” says Bev Gabe, Communications Manager for LightHawk. The organization provides donated flights to conservation groups through a network of more than 200 volunteer pilots who make their aircraft, fuel and skills available free of charge.

“These very expensive flights for the cougar cubs are actually free to the Oregon Zoo and North Carolina Zoo,” according to Gabe.  “So when companies like Global step up and provide the hangar space and fuel, it really means a lot. We really appreciate that.”

Only a small percentage of LightHawk’s flights are cross-country wildlife survival flights. The bulk of LightHawk’s donated flights allow pilots to share the aerial perspective with others by producing beneficial videos, photographs, and data for local conservation efforts.

Pilot Michael Baum prepares to take off from Global Aviation with the cougar cubs.

Gabe jokes that pilots often love to fly so much that they’ll use any excuse to get up in the aircraft and fly.  “At LightHawk, we can channel that natural passion for flying, and do something for our natural world.“

For more information on LightHawk, visit LightHawk’s website that details their work and how to get involved.

For more information on the cougar cubs, you can see a video provided by the Oregon Zoo or visit the North Carolina Zoo website for updates on their progress.

More from the Global Aviation March 2014 Newsletter:

Global Aviation’s New Hangar in Good Hands with Dave Wheeler
Falcon 5X Showcased at Global Aviation
Catering Corner – Irish Colcannon with Celery Root, Cauliflower, Kale and Cabbage
Grigio’s Corner – Pet Pampering in the Sky
Capturing the Beauty of Air-to-Air Aviation with Photographer Jessica Ambats


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