SALT LAKE CITY — Mushu, a young Pallas' cat, has caused a little mischief at Utah's Hogle Zoo.
The 10-month-old Pallas' cat, described as "very shy and reserved," was discovered missing from his outdoor exhibit by zookeepers Sunday morning.
Zoo officials stress Mushu isn't dangerous (as he's smaller than most domesticated cats) and they suspect he probably hasn't left zoo grounds, but the zoo has called all hands on deck to find and safely recapture the 8-pound cat, said Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen.
"It's important to us that we do get him back unharmed," Hansen said, noting that Pallas' cats are a threatened species.
Mushu was first discovered missing around 8 a.m. Keepers suspect he may have climbed past anti-climb barriers and through the mesh at the top of his exhibit.
Keepers found some small paw prints near Mushu's enclosure, and have tracked numerous paw prints but hadn't been able to find him as of Sunday evening, Hansen said.
Mushu likely hasn't gone far, she noted, and keepers are hopeful that he'll return to his exhibit on his own later Sunday in search of food. Zoo staff have live box traps, thermal imaging cameras and food at-the-ready, Hansen said.
The Hogle Zoo remained open Sunday while keepers looked for Mushu.
Hansen said the zoo's night crew would continue looking for Mushu, and other zookeepers had been brought in to help with the search.
Hansen said it's not likely any members of the public will spot Mushu since Pallas' cats are "extremely elusive and tend to hunker down, making them difficult to spot," but she said if anyone spots an unusual-looking cat with a flat ears, gray fur and yellow eyes, they're asked to call zoo officials at 801-584-4512.
Hansen also urged anyone who might spot Mushu not to approach him, as he could become frightened if he's "cornered."
Zookeepers have closed the outdoor Pallas' cat exhibit until a more thorough investigation can determine exactly how Mushu escaped, Hansen said. Other Asian Highlands mesh enclosures were also re-examined Sunday as a precaution.
Hansen said Mushu's escape was "unusual," but she noted he might have been a little distressed because Saturday marked his second day separated from his brother, Pabu. She said keepers separated the two littermates after they started showings signs of aggression toward each other, which is typical of Pallas' cats when they mature and become more independent.
Mushu was born at the Hogle Zoo last March, along with four siblings.6 comments on this story
The zoo has exhibited Pallas' cats since the opening of the Asian Highlands exhibit in 2006. At the time, the zoo housed three female Pallas' cats, but when Mushu's father — Patenka — arrived in 2015, zookeepers became aware that exhibit modifications needed to be made as he was much more "exploratory" than the female cats, according to Hansen.
Those modifications were made, she said, but this is the first time the zoo has housed juvenile male Pallas' cats.
Pallas' cats are named after German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas.