Remembering Dakota the Mountain Lion


Topeka, KAN- The Topeka Zoo is saddened to report that Dakota, the male mountain lion, has passed away. His passing comes after 10 days of declining health and appetite to the point he stopped eating. On Monday, August 16th, Dakota was taken to a local area hospital where a CT scan revealed air within his abdomen, leading his care team to suspect, and later confirm, a perforation in his gastrointestinal tract. Several factors including overall health condition, age, and post-op care challenges led to the tough decision to euthanize him.

Dakota joined the Topeka Zoo in 2009 with the opening of Kansas Carnivores. Dakota shared a habitat with another mountain lion, Cassy. Both Dakota and Cassy were orphaned in the wild and spent a few years at the Denver Zoo before traveling east to Topeka. At nearly 14 years old, Dakota lived a full life, as male mountain lions typically live to approximately 13.6 years.

When asked about what she loved about Dakota, Shanna Simpson, Animal Curator says, “He was the best painter in the zoo. He was such a good artist! He loved fish, loved to play with balls, and loved his Keepers.”

The passing of Dakota comes after a week in which another geriatric resident of the zoo, Cora the Asian Elephant, faced her own health problems. After a few days of dealing with symptoms related to her age, Cora’s condition has normalized. She is back to regular behaviors, though the team continues to monitor her well-being.

“Working with older animals is difficult. We have built strong relationships with them, and they have entered a time in their lives where they require more time and specialized care. Maintaining the strength of these relationships is important so that we can maintain the best care for them and can pick up on small changes. It also means that it is much harder on us when their time comes.” Wrylie Guffey, Animal Curator and Elephant Manager says. “Every day we have with them is treasured."