It was a story that captured the hearts of Southern Californians in the days just prior to Christmas — two starving mountain lion cubs rescued off the streets of Burbank.
The cubs are doing just fine now, yawning and purring in an animal sanctuary in San Luis Obispo County. They want for nothing but names, something their current guardians want our community to help out with. I’ll get to the details on that in a moment.
The emaciated female cubs, believed to be between two and three months old, were hiding under a parked car a few blocks away from beautiful downtown Burbank. Officials aren't sure what happened to their mother, who may have been killed or scared off.
Local animal control officers shooed away some well-meaning but frightened residents, themselves attempting to shoo the cowering kitties away with broomsticks.
The cubs were whisked away to the California Wildlife Center in Calabasas before arriving at their new home, Zoo to You, a Paso Robles-based outfit. There, said David Jackson, director of the nonprofit conservation and educational organization, they will receive much needed care and rehabilitation.
Care of wild creatures is always a double-edged sword. The work Jackson and his group will do, helping the cubs grow into healthy, happy adults, will partially domesticate them, making them unfit to be released back into the Verdugo Mountains.
There's no gray line here, Jackson said, noting that re-releasing rescued mountain lions into the wild is not only ill-advised, but also illegal.
Zoo to You does presentations at schools and universities, meaning the two cubs may one day be tapped to make appearances. At those appearances, their current handles — No. 1 and No. 2 — just won’t do. That’s where you come in. Name these cubs!
Jackson said he would like a name that indicates the mountain lions' connection to the area. I had a few ideas, though most where met with a sour face by my wife. But, hey, I'll share 'em, just to get the ball rolling:
Lockheed, aka “Superfund” (just kidding, sorta)
When I told Jackson some of my ideas, he laughed.
“Well, sometimes eye-rolling is a good thing when you're talking about names,” he said. “The whole idea is that they should be named something Burbank-y or urban.”
He said that someone suggested naming one after Jay Leno's wife.
“But I'm just not naming one of them Mavis,” he said. “I'm just not.”
In the end, though, the goal of the contest is to highlight how we live among mountain lions all the time, Jackson said.
“It's a great opportunity to give a great message about urban cats,” he said. “You expect a mountain lion in the Sierras, but if you see one running across Burbank Boulevard, you're going to freak out, and think it's wrong. But it's not wrong.”
Submit your suggestions to the online comment area of this column, on the Burbank Leader Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BurbankLeader, or send me an email. If Jackson's group chooses your name, we'll give you $20 in gift cards to either Starbucks or iTunes.
Duplicate names will be credited to the first person to submit. Good luck, and have fun!
DAN EVANS is the editor. Reach him at (818) 637-3234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.