You may have noticed Como’s 4-year-old male cougar, Jasper, eyes are shut. There’s a reason for that, but first, let’s get to know Jasper. Jasper was orphaned after his mother, which was reportedly killing sheep, was shot and killed under a California legal depredation permit. In the state of California, a person who suffers property damage by mountain lions is entitled to obtain a depredation permit to protect their property. Jasper (and his habitat companion Ruby, who was also orphaned under different circumstances) arrived from California to Como in 2018 after being cared for by Oakland Zoo wildlife specialists.
Jasper’s ocular problems were first noted in June 2020 when cloudiness was noted in his corneas (the clear part of his eyes). Treatment for this consisted of surgical implants around his eyes which required immobilization and replacement at 12 to 18 month intervals.
Over the last year, we noticed Jasper was having problems navigating his environment. Follow-up examination by our veterinary ophthalmologist revealed he had progressive retinal atrophy – a disease that is not treatable and eventually resulted in his complete blindness. More recently we noticed he had inflamed, red eyelids likely as a result of reduced blinking/tear production that was being treated, but not improving. All of these issues made us come to the conclusion his comfort and overall health would be best addressed by removal of his eyes.
On Sunday, April 16, Jasper underwent a bilateral enucleation (eye removal) surgery. The decision to perform the surgery was based on thorough evaluation of Jasper by a veterinary ophthalmologist and lengthy discussions with zookeepers, animal management and zoo veterinary staff. Jasper had been receiving ongoing treatments for eye problems and his comfort level was a main concern (especially as a young animal). Removal of the nonfunctional eyes eliminated this discomfort and the potential for future problems.
The surgery went extremely well, Jasper recovered uneventfully and is back on exhibit with Ruby. He may be more cautious at this point moving around exhibit, but his activity will likely appear normal since he was unseeing prior to the surgery and was accustomed to his habitat.
When you now see him on exhibit you’ll notice his eyelids are permanently closed. He may or may not be sleeping when you see this – although cats do appreciate spending quite a bit of time resting.
A huge thank you to everyone involved with this procedure, advocating for Jasper’s wellbeing and to Minnesota Public Radio for sharing his remarkable story. You can read that piece HERE.
Below is an episode of Como Live featuring Jasper and Ruby.
Photo Credit: Steve Solmonson