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February 25, 2011

Resident Mountain Lion Sasha Gets Teeth Pulled

Sasha recovers from oral surgery at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif.

Sasha, a 10-year-old resident mountain lion at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, had two teeth removed on Sunday after she presented with a swollen cheek, followed by an abscess. The next day, Sasha wanted snacks, and actually fell asleep on the platform where she had been sedated, seemingly oblivious to the whole ordeal.

"Oral surgery for a mountain lion can be a very complicated procedure, but with the help of a seasoned dentist, and the right drugs, Sasha is now recovering peacefully at her home at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center," said Ali Crumpacker, director of the center. The Ramona, Calif., sanctary and wildlife rehabilitation facility is one of five animal care centers operated by The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals.

One of three resident cougars at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, Sasha is very active and enjoys her toys and treats. When staff noticed an abscess in her cheek, they worried, but because Sasha is a wild animal, the lion herself never showed any pain or discomfort. In the wild, showing that you are ill or injured could mean death; even a full life in captivity does not remove this instinct. Even as Sasha recovers from her oral surgery, she shows no signs of pain.

The center called upon its consulting veterinarian, Dr. Jane Meier, to examine her mouth last week. Meier determined Sasha would need to see a dentist and coordinated with Dr. Brook Niemiec of Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialist to pay the center a visit on Sunday.

When he arrived, Sasha was asked by staff to walk into her exam room—a small enclosure built within her enclosure—where she was given a sedative. Once asleep, she was carried to the garage-turned-surgical-room and the veterinary team descended upon her. Blood work, exams, and a full mouth X-ray showed that Sasha needed two incisors removed, and a good cleaning along the gum line.

After just one hour, the mountain lion was ready to head back to her enclosure where she was allowed to wake up in familiar surroundings. Several volunteers helped throughout the day and monitored Sasha as she woke up—and then fell back to sleep.

Sasha’s story at the center began in April 2001 when the 3-month-old cub was found in Northern California, starving and dehydrated. She was too young to be on her own, and was taken to the California Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Investigations Laboratory near Sacramento. Eventually, she made her way to the Wildlife Center in Ramona where she was granted permanent sanctuary.

Although Sasha may not appreciate the extractions on Sunday, the staff at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center can worry a little less about one of their charges thanks to Dr. Niemiec and his dental team from SC Veterinary Dental Specialist.

Watch video of the procedure. Photos are available upon request.

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Media Contact: Pepper Ballard: 240-751-0232; pballard@humanesociety.org

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org

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