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Cheyenne Mountain Zoo heartbroken by unexpected loss of young mountain lion

Posted at 1:45 PM, Jan 21, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is mourning the unexpected loss of female mountain lion, Sequoia, who passed away Sunday night after post surgical complications from being spayed.

“Sequoia’s passing has shocked us,” said Bob Chastain, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo president and CEO. “Even after 25 years in the profession, this doesn’t get easier. It is a reminder that no medical procedure is simple or without risk. As humans in this day of advanced medicine where miracles are performed every day, this is a sobering reminder.”

Because of her sudden, rare and unanticipated reaction to her recovery, veterinary staff suspected one potential cause may have been an allergy to her sutures.

“We first noticed swelling around Sequoia’s incision mid-last week, which isn’t unusual,” said Dr. Jon Romano, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo head veterinarian. “We treated her with anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics and continued daily checks while limiting her physical activity. I personally assessed Sequoia on Saturday night and was satisfied with her progress. Sunday morning, we discovered her surgical site had opened up overnight.”

With generic allergies in mind, the zoo performed an additional examination on Sequoia’s sister, Adira, who had the same surgery earlier this month. During that examination, the zoo staff sais they were pleased with her Adira's healing, but they saw on an x-ray something that looks like wire or rope in her stomach.

Further investigation will be done to know whether it may harm Adira.

Sequoia and Adira were spayed on January 9. The surgery requires incisions between the protective muscles on the animal’s abdomen. Although this is a common procedure, any surgery requiring anesthesia is complex and the recovery can run into complications, especially with wild animals that can’t be examined as closely in the days following surgery. Although complications are rare, they are possible, and can be very serious.

The animal care team made the decision to perform spay surgeries on Sequoia and Adira because un-spayed big cats are more likely to experience health problems later in life, such as cancer and hormonal imbalance that can cause infection.

A third mountain lion sibling, male Sitka, was neutered on the same day that the females were spayed. The neutering procedure is less complex than the procedure for females, and Sitka appears to be recovering well.