- Biologists discovered three mountain lion kittens in a patch of poison oak outside of Los Angeles.
- They were only 24 days old when they were found on May 18.
- Now, they must survive in an increasingly urbanized area of Southern California.
Biologists with the National Park Service discovered a litter of recently birthed mountain lion kittens in the Simi Hills, west of Los Angeles.
The kittens, now identified as P-113, P-114, and P-115, were discovered on May 18 in a “dense patch of poison oak” between large boulders near a den site, according to a press release from the NPS.
To find the kittens, the biologists had to wait until the mother, P-77, left the site unattended to hunt for food or rest.
Biologists determined that when the kittens were discovered, they were only 24 days old.
“It will be interesting to learn how these kittens will use the landscape once they get older and disperse, particularly if they decide to stay in the Simi Hills or cross freeways to enter larger natural areas.” Jeff Sikich, the lead field biologist of the NPS mountain lion study, said in the release.
The kittens are the third litter marked in the Simi Hills as a part of a study of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, which began in 2002. The NPS tracks the cats to determine how urbanization and habitat fragmentation affect these animals’ lives.
According to the main findings of the NPS observations, mountain lions in Los Angeles County are significantly threatened by the development of roads and cities. A leading cause of mountain lion deaths are vehicle strikes, which often occur when they cross major freeways like the 101, 405, and 118.
In December, Los Angeles lost one of its most iconic mountain lions, P-22, after he had been struck by a vehicle.
Sikich told the Los Angeles Times that since March 2022, 15 mountain lions have died, many after being struck by vehicles. However, Sikich said the new kittens are an “encouraging” sign.
“It’s encouraging to see reproduction in our small population of mountain lions, especially after all the mortalities we have documented in the last year,” Sikich said in the release.