P-48 and P-49 in June in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains. National Park Service photos.
National Park Service researchers said today that they have recently discovered and tagged two new litters of mountain lion kittens in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains. The five kittens tagged are three females and two males.
The first litter of kittens, tagged June 8, are two females now known as P-48 and P-49. The mother is P-35, an approximately six-year-old female that the National Park Service has been tracking since April 2014. Based on remote camera images, biologists suspect that her previous kitten, P-44, did not survive into adulthood.
The second litter is from P-39, an approximately five-year-old female that researchers began tracking in April 2015. The males are P-50 and P-52, and the female was tagged P-51. They were discovered on June 22 in a cave-like den hidden beneath large boulders.
Researchers suspect the father of both litters is P-38, based on GPS locations of him traveling and spending multiple days with both female cats before their kittens were born. Samples from the kittens were taken for genetic testing in order to determine paternity with certainty, the NPS says.
“Despite the challenges mountain lions in this area face, the animals we’ve studied appear to be reproducing successfully,” said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “The real challenge comes as these kittens grow older and disperse, especially the males, and have to deal with threats from other mountain lions and also road mortality and the possibility of poisoning from anticoagulant rodenticide.”
Researchers locate the kittens’ den, the NPS says, by analyzing the GPS locations transmitted from the mother’s collar. For the first three weeks after the kittens’ birth, the GPS points are typically localized in a cluster that is then used to close in on the den’s hidden location. Researchers go in to examine and tag the kittens when the mother is known to be gone hunting.
These are the tenth and eleventh litters of kittens marked by National Park Service biologists at a den site. Two additional litters of kittens were discovered when the kittens were already at least six months old, the park service says.
Since 2002, the National Park Service has been studying mountains lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains to determine how they survive in an increasingly fragmented and urbanized environment. Funding for mountain lion research in the Santa Monica Mountains is provided in part through private donations to the Santa Monica Mountains Fund.
P-48 and P-49.
Kittens from the litter of P-50, P-51 and P-52.
Also from the litter that includes P-50, P-51 and P-52.