Firefighter recounts rescue of mountain lion kittens


MISSOULA, Mont. - When fire crews dug fire lines at the Three Mile fire near Florence, crews heard high pitch screeches. They would later discover it was two mountain lion kittens. Bitterroot Firefighter Elizabeth Shellenbarger said it sounded like a bird was crying. Shellenbarger said flames consumed the area where the unusual noise came from. So fire crews called in a 600 gallon bucket drop to douse the blaze. She says 2 mountain lion cubs crawled out from under a log. The cubs were soaking wet and caked in soot but unscathed. "They we're kinda feisty to be honest and then they were hissing at us," said Shellenbarger. The firefighters estimate the kittens were anywhere from one to two weeks old. They range in weight from three to five pounds.

While the kittens were initially feisty, it didn't take long for them to warm up to their rescuers. "They were sucking on our fingers and nuzzling up to us," said Shellenbarger.

Fire crews say they think they saw the mother of the two kittens on Saturday. The cubs were taken to the Wildlife Rehab Center in Helena. Officials say it's too early to tell if the kittens can be safety returned to the wild or remain under the care of animal workers.

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