Three new mountain lion kittens tagged in Santa Monicas

p-32-as-kitten.jpgThe mountain lion known as P-19 is nursing three cubs born a few weeks ago in the Malibu Springs area, the National Park Service announced on Facebook. The new cougars are P-32, P-33 and P-34: two females and a male. The cubs' DNA is being tested to determine which of the few surviving male lions in the range is the father. That's P-32 in the photo.

By the way, there was no sedating of the mother. This photo was gotten the hard way. Ranger Kate Kuykendall says in the Facebook thread that a team of two biologists and an intern waited for P-19 to leave the den, which she didn't do for the first two days the team was observing. On the third try, the team moved in. But they had to be quick because if P-19 returned to find the kittens in jeopardy, she might have been one protective mountain lion. "It can be somewhat hectic since obviously they're paying close attention to see if she returns," says Kuykendall. "They have someone who acts as a 'lookout' tracking mom so that they can let the people in the den know if she's heading back their way. This is why when I tell them they should have gotten a photo of all three kittens together they just roll their eyes - they're kind of pre-occupied with getting their work done quickly and safely and not as concerned about what I can post on Facebook!"

This is P-19's second litter of puma kittens. One of hers, P-23, was the one photographed feeding on a mule deer on Mulholland Highway in August.

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