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There’s a new Mickey in Orange County, though he has a ways to go before he’s as ubiquitous as his Anaheim counterpart.

The O.C. Zoo in Orange debuted its 11-month-old, 50-pound jaguar named Mickey earlier this week after the facility received the big cat about a month ago.

The screen blocking Mickey’s enclosure was raised on Monday, allowing the jaguar and the zoo’s visitors to meet.

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“Although he’s been here for a while, he’s been acclimating to his new habitat behind visual blocks,” said zoo manager Don Zeigler, who’s been working at the eight-acre center inside the 477-acre Irvine Regional Park since 1991. “Now he has full visibility to not just view people but other habitats around him.”

According to Zeigler, Mickey was a gift from the Wildlife World Zoo of Litchfield Park, Ariz.

Mickey, an 11-month-old jaguar at the Orange County Zoo.

Young jaguar Mickey ventures out at the Orange County Zoo.

(O.C. Parks)

The zoo’s owner, Mickey Ollson, died in January 2022 but not before promising Zeigler a big cat, with one stipulation.

“He told me that if I ever had a proper habitat suitable for a jaguar [then] he would either gladly loan me or give me an animal,” said Zeigler, noting that the O.C. Zoo now owns Mickey. “We both had a desire to educate the public about jaguars.”

According to the World Wildlife Federation, there are around 173,000 jaguars on Earth, with about half residing in Brazil.

Zeigler said the animals once roamed the American Southwest, calling the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas home. A jaguar known as El Jefe was believed to be the last in the United States, according to AZCentral, and left Tucson in 2022 for Mexico. Another, named Sombra, however, was spotted in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains later that year.

“Whenever these animals are seen, they’re celebrated,” Zeigler said, “because the sightings are so rare.”

Mickey’s arrival also marks a reunion as he joins his brother, Ziggy, a 3-year-old, 145-pound jaguar who debuted when the zoo opened its two-acre large mammal exhibit in May.

The exhibit now boasts one male and two female mountain lions, and the brother jaguars. Zeigler said half of the enclosure is connected by bridges, intended to allow the cats to optimize their roaming space.

The goal for the zoo is to strengthen Mickey as he reaches adulthood, which Zeigler estimates is the two-year mark. He hopes Mickey will grow to about 140 pounds.

Mickey’s diet consists of ground meat, bones, minerals and vitamins, and he eats from 2% to 4% of his body weight daily, he said.

Mickey has also proved to be elusive at the zoo as Zeigler said the big cat had hidden himself away much more than his outgoing brother.

“Instinctually, they are more solitary animals in the wild,” Zeigler said. “Right now he is not always out, but that may change as he gets more comfortable.”

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