Starving Cougar Hunting “Place To Die” Wanders Into Animal Rescue, Finds Help Instead

| Published on April 19, 2024

Word seems to have reached the wild animal world regarding the magic of animal rescue centers. We’ve heard many tales of creatures wandering into animal rescue shelters in need of help and another one comes to us out of Quilcene, WA. But the wild cat in this tale was so sickly, she might have had other intentions when she found an empty kennel at Center Valley Animal Rescue.

Weak and near death, a young cougar barely out of her cub days found the kennel at Center Valley and curled up in the hay. When an animal caretaker opened the pen, they were surprised to find the starving cat there, nothing but “skin, bones, and organs”. Director of Center Valley Animal Rescue, Sara Penhallegon shared the cougar was probably “looking for a place to die.”

The staff wasn’t going to let that happen though.

Center Valley Animal Rescue/Facebook

Rescuing a Cougar

At an approximate age of 10 months, the cougar was actually too young to be separated from its mother, Cougar youths typically don’t venture out on their own until 18-36 months of age. Six weeks prior to the young cougar showing up at Center Valley, an adult female cougar had been killed in Quilcene and it’s believed this was her mother. Which left this girl, an almost grown cub, alone to fend for herself before she was ready.

“This was a cat that had not learned to hunt yet. It had no way to take care of itself or feed itself,” Sara explained. “When its mom died, that would’ve been a death sentence for this cat unless it found itself a rehabilitation center it could check itself into!”

Underweight by 50 lbs. for a cat of her age, the cougar only tipped the scale at 34 pounds. She was in dire need of help. Staff started feeding the wild girl chicken breasts and small animals to lure her away from death’s doorstep.

Center Valley Animal Rescue/Facebook

The eager cat ate happily. And after ten days of meat and ministrations, she had gained ten pounds! That’s when Sara got bold and sedated the cat for a full exam. Tests revealed “no signs of injury or poisoning,” according to an Instagram post.   

But what do you do with a cougar that can’t fend for herself?

Rehoming a Cougar

Fattening up and feeling better, the cougar soon destroyed the plastic siding on the cage, acting like the wild cat she was born to be. “It started getting feisty and it would hiss and growl at me every time I walked over.”

“That was a very good sign.”


But it also presented a problem. How do you feed a cougar who can’t hunt?

“I can’t just go out and catch deer and throw it into an enclosure with [a cougar] and say ‘OK, kill the deer,’” said Sara. “It’s just a really tricky situation, and these are large, total carnivores.”

So, Center Valley got in touch with Cameron Park Zoo, a natural habitat park in Texas. There, the cougar has a new sister about her age as well as a safe refuge to be wild.


Center Valley operates with the goal of returning animals to the wild, but as the cougar couldn’t survive on her own, they gave her the next best option. “Obviously, our goal is to return animals to the wild, but the next best option is a really good captive placement with a great facility that can take care of its needs. And that’s what we have for this one.”

Feature Image: Center Valley Animal Rescue/Facebook