Grandfather Mountain has announced the death of Aspen the cougar.
Park officials say the cougar became increasingly unresponsive following a tooth-removal surgery last weekend. He was euthanized on Monday as his condition continued to deteriorate.
Aspen was 15-years-old, two years older than the average lifespan for western cougars.
“Aspen was such a great ambassador of his species and for Grandfather Mountain,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature park. “Everyone that met him was in awe of his gentle nature and his interest in meeting those who visited with him.”
The cougar was born in 2003 at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park in Colorado. Aspen and his siblings were raised by park staff due to their mother’s age. A few months later, Aspen was flown to North Carolina to replace an elderly cougar that had recently died at Grandfather Mountain.
Aspen is survived by Logan and Trinity, a sibling pair of Western cougars found orphaned as cubs in Idaho, which Grandfather Mountain rescued in 2016 with the generous support of Bob and Susan Wilson.