RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA (CBSLA) — A mountain lion cub whose mother was fatally struck by a car in Orange County has been released back into the wild this week after four months of rehabilitation.

Two mountain lion cubs were just six months old when they were first spotted in February at the edges of the Tijeras Creek Golf Course in Orange County. California Fish & Wildlife officials confirmed the cubs had been orphaned after their mother was killed in traffic, but determined they weren’t ready yet to fend for themselves.

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One of the cubs was brought in February to the Ramona Wildlife Center, where the Project Wildlife Team worked to rehabilitate the kitten with the intention of releasing her back into the wild. Rescued mountain lion kittens are usually sent to a sanctuary.

“This is the first time we’ve released a younger female lion, so it’s significant for us. She’s basically a teenager going out on her own for the first time and we’ve tried to help her get to the teenage stage, so she’s old enough,” said Christine Barton, director of operations and wildlife rehabilitation at the Ramona Wildlife Center.

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(credit: San Diego Humane Society)

While at the Ramona Wildlife Center, the cub was housed in large mammal compounds and her human interaction was limited only to necessary veterinary exams and medical care so she would not imprint on her caretakers. She was finally released into the wild on Monday and is just the second mountain lion to be rehabilitated and released in the state of California, according to Fish & Wildlife officials.

“Although this cat is only 10 months old, she’s consistently behaving like a wild mountain lion,” CDFW senior wildlife veterinarian Dr. Deana Clifford said in a statement. “As for any young mountain lion, her chances of survival in the wild are lower than an adult, but if she does survive and reproduce she will make an important contribution to the mountain lion population in this region of Southern California.”

The second cub, however, needs more care. She suffered a left forearm fracture and had to undergo surgery at the Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital before arriving in May at the Ramona Wildlife Center, where she is still recovering.

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Fish & Wildlife says that the release and rehabilitation of mountain lions in California is being done on a case-by-case basis.