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Mountain Lions

From orphan cubs to the BioPark’s most social felines


Twin mountain lions Spanky and Darla had a tough start to life.

They came to the ABQ BioPark as cubs in 2002 after their mother was hit by a car. The two were rescued by New Mexico Fish and Game and they lived briefly at The Wildlife Center in Española before making the Zoo their permanent home.

Despite their rough start, the pair has thrived at the BioPark.

They both enjoy interacting with zookeepers (through protective barriers, of course) and when these social cats hear staff approaching their indoor holding areas, they’ll come inside to hang out.

Spanky isn’t a picky guy—the goofier of the two mountain lions, he likes everyone. Darla is a little choosier and has even been known to hold a grudge.

The same applies to diet—Spanky will try to eat just about anything. The carnivore staff pays very close attention to what is safe and beneficial for all of the BioPark's cats, including mountain lions. Zookeepers have to monitor what Spanky gets his paws on since he’ll sometimes try to consume things he shouldn’t (like a blanket). Darla knows better than to eat non-food items. 

Zookeepers add items like papier-mâché, bags and boxes to the mountain lion exhibit to add environmental enrichment for Spanky and Darla—this provides mental stimulation, and encourages play for these big cats. Spanky is known as an “enrichment nut” and loves to rip things to shreds. Darla usually isn’t as enthusiastic about enrichment, but on Fridays she enjoys gnawing on her bone (all of the big cats receive one at the end of the week as a supplement to their daily meat diet).

Though mountain lions are largely solitary in the wild, Spanky and Darla get along well with each other.  You can watch Darla and Spanky cuddle in the sun in the afternoons on the Catwalk.

Did you know?

  • The mountain lion—also known as cougar, puma, panther and catamount—is native to New Mexico.
  • It is the second-heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar.
  • The names Spanky and Darla came from characters on the 1930s incarnation of the American TV series “Our Gang.”