Rescued cougar from New York City apartment adapting at refuge in Eureka Springs, Ark.

Cougar was kept as pet in New York City apartment
Sasha will soon be interacting with other cougars after she finishes up quarantining.
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT
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EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KY3) - An 11-month-old cougar, recently rescued from a New York City apartment, is adapting to life at a sanctuary in northern Arkansas.

The cougar, named Sasha, is quarantined while she gets used to her surroundings at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs. Sasha was moved to a new, spacious habitat on Thursday while she receives vaccinations. It is the first time she’s ever been able to roam.

”She actually was out, laying in the grassy area in the shade and very comfortable,” said Laurie Vanderwal, assistant curator at Turpentine. “Today she has just been huddled up in her den. She looks very content, but there’s just a lot of adjusting and that’s what she’s been used to.”

The Humane Society of the United States, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, NYPD and the Bronx Zoo all worked together to rescue the animal. The big cat was first taken to the Bronx Zoo where she was cared for by veterinarians and animal care staff.

”It wasn’t a great thing to have as a pet in your home, so she reached out to us to be able to take her,” said Vanderwal. “We realized we had space for her and were like alright we’ll go ahead and rescue her.”

Investigators said the owner purchased the cougar out of state and had the nearly full-grown animal since it was a cub.

”It was a really nice collaboration of a lot of organizations working together to make sure Sasha found a good home,” said Vanderwal.

After she finishes quarantine, Sasha will move to a 400-by-30-foot habitat where she will have space to run and also be introduced to other female cougars.

”Marrisa and Louisa live there now, Sasha will have her own night house for the beginning, but they do have a shared wall,” said Vanderwal. “So they will be able to see each other interact, we’ll be able to see how they react to each other. It will be a slow process, but they’re all young cougars so we’re hopeful they play and warm up to each other.”

Vanderwal went on to say that the focus at the sanctuary is all on the animals, and ultimately they’re just thankful to have found an appropriate home for Sasha.

There is no federal law prohibiting the ownership of such animals as pets. However, legislation is going through the senate making the sale and domestic ownership of big cats illegal.

Click here for more information on the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

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