COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is mourning after the death of a 13-year-old mountain lion.
Kaya was orphaned in the wild in Wyoming in 2006, according to a news release from the zoo. She was nicknamed “Grandma Kaya” this summer after three kittens who were also orphaned came to live at the zoo.
According to the release, she likely died of old age.
Although mountain lions are typically solitary in the wild, Kaya and her brothers, Yuma, Montega and Tocho, lived together until her brothers died, Yuma in 2016 and the other two earlier this year.
“Kaya’s story is so powerful because it’s full-circle,” said Rebecca Zwicker, Rocky Mountain Wild animal care manager who worked with Kaya and her siblings for more than 10 years, in the release. “We’ve seen her step into this world with her brothers as a young, unsure, orphaned kitten…To see her become ‘Grandma Kaya’ in her final months was like she’d completed the cycle. Those kittens were comfortable with her, and Kaya was an important piece of their world. She’s passed the torch, in a way. I just wish they – and we – could have had her a little longer.”
Keepers will closely monitor the kittens, Sequoia, Adira and Sitka, who were able to say goodbye to Kaya after she died.
“Sitka went into Kaya’s den and slowly approached her, sniffed her, gave her a chuff (a cat greeting), then chirped and lied down next to her,” said Zwicker, in the release. “After a few minutes, he went back outside to find his sisters, who were climbing up a branch against the glass viewing area, being their normal crazy selves. Things will be different for them without Kaya, but they have us and each other, so they’ll be okay.”