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Mountain Lion Kittens Found Alone Under Picnic Table Are Rescued

Four mountain lion kittens huddle together beneath dried branches and sticks. The kittens are tan with black spots.
Mountain lion kittens found near an office building in Thousand Oaks.
(Courtesy National Park Service)
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Two mountain lion kittens are alive after a litter of four — thought to be six weeks old — was spotted under a picnic table near a Thousand Oaks office building.

Office workers who made the discovery last week alerted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency advised them to leave the kittens alone in hopes the mother would return overnight. She didn't.

That's when the National Park Service got involved. They gave the kittens fluids, placed collar tracking devices, and set up camera monitors to see if their mother returned.

"It's not uncommon for a mother mountain lion to leave the kittens for two, sometimes up to three days. While she's out hunting, and then come back," explained Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the National Park Service.

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But in this case, Sikich said there was still no sign of the mom.

On Sunday, Sikich said park service workers tracked the kittens to thick brush near where they were first spotted. They were in poor health and weighed between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 pounds. Two kittens died that night. Two surviving kittens are now at an Orange County veterinary hospital. Eventually, they will be temporarily housed at the Orange County Zoo.

The two surviving kittens are known as P-101 and P-103. The "P" stands for puma and the big cats are also called cougars.

The park service currently monitors 15 adult mountain lions in the area, although none are female. Sikich said they do not know if the mother died or abandoned the kittens, which he said can happen.

Because the kittens were captured so young, they'll live in captivity for the rest of their lives.

Local mountain lions have ranges in the Santa Monica, San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountains. They face a number of threats coexisting in an urban environment with people, among them, as noted by the National Park Service page for the Santa Monica Mountains:

The long-term survival of mountain lions in this region, however, is threatened by a number of factors, none more significant than the loss and fragmentation of habitat by roads and development. This leads not only to deaths from vehicle collisions, but also multiple cases of first-order inbreeding because animals are not able to disperse in and out of the area.
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