Litter of kittens provides hope for Los Angeles mountain lions after dreadful year | California

After a devastating yr for Los Angeles mountain lions, researchers have made a hopeful discovery within the southern California hills: an all-female litter of kittens.

Biologists discovered the three cubs final week in what the Nationwide Park Service described as a “dense patch of poison oak nestled amongst giant boulders” in between the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountain ranges. The kittens, simply over three weeks outdated and referred to as P-113, P-114 and P-115, are wholesome, the NPS stated in a press release.

“It’s encouraging to see copy in our small inhabitants of mountain lions, particularly after all of the mortalities we’ve got documented within the final yr,” stated Jeff Sikich, the lead subject biologist of the NPS mountain lion research, which since 2002 has checked out how the animals survive in a fragmented and urbanized setting.

Fifteen mountain lions have died within the research space since march 2022, Sikich informed the Los Angeles Times, the bulk after being hit by automobiles. Amongst these killed final yr was Los Angeles’s beloved P-22, as soon as known as the Brad Pitt of mountain lions, who for a decade famously roamed in city metropolis neighborhoods and beneath the Hollywood signal.

Two female mountain lion kittens seen near a rock in Simi Hills in May 2023.
Two feminine mountain lion kittens seen close to a rock in Simi Hills in Might 2023. {Photograph}: AP

The trio of kittens had been born to P-77, who biologists estimate is between 5 and 6 years outdated and lives in between the busy 101 and 118 freeways. The daddy doubtless got here from the Santa Susana mountains and has since returned, the NPS stated.

“It will likely be attention-grabbing to find out how these kittens will use the panorama as soon as they become old and disperse, notably in the event that they resolve to remain within the Simi Hills or cross freeways to enter bigger pure areas,” stated Sikich.

Mountain lion kitten
Nationwide Park Service (NPS) biologists introduced mountain lion P-77 just lately gave beginning to a few feminine kittens. {Photograph}: AP

Researchers visited the den whereas the mom was away and carried out a brief basic well being evaluation of the kittens a brief distance away earlier than returning them. The biologists additionally tagged every kitten, which can assist determine them sooner or later.

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That is the third litter researchers have documented in within the space. The moms of the earlier litters from 2018 and 2020 are each now deceased. The final two grownup males who researchers frequently tracked within the Simi Hills have each died, one within the December 2018 Woolsey Fireplace and one other after being poached in July 2019, the NPS stated in its assertion.

Highways pose a extreme menace to mountain lions – 535 died on California highways between 2015 and 2022. Southern California hopes to alleviate this with an $87m wildlife crossing, below building over a 10-lane stretch of the 101 freeway, that may join two elements of the Santa Monica mountains, permitting creatures like the brand new litter of kittens to cross safely.