Photos: 3 Baby Mountain Lions Discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains
A litter of three mountain lion kittens were born late last month and a new adult mountain lion living locally has been discovered, the National Park Service has announced. Since 2002, biologists having been tracking and studying the movements of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains to better understand how they live surrounded by development.
A total of 19 pumas have been tracked during the study, including the three kittens. Currently, nine are being tracked via GPS or VHF, which makes it the largest number of lions being tracked at the same time.
The three kittens are exciting for scientists as the unconfirmed father could be P12 (P stands for Puma, another name for mountain lion, which is also the species’ genus - Puma concolor). In the Spring of 2009, P12 made headlines after it crossed, over or under, the 101 Freeway from the Simi Hills in to the Santa Monica Mountains in the Agoura Hills area. That in itself was exciting news as biologists are concerned about wildlife connectivity in the area. In the past five years, at least two North American black bears have made it across the freeway into the mountains.
But P12's new home in the Santa Monicas means something else: fewer chances of inbreeding. With limited movement, thanks to the surrounding development, mountain lions in the range stand a good chance to mate with family members. P12 is genetically different and if the father of the kittens, the genetic diversity will play an important role in the future success of the local mountain lion population. The mother of P17, P18 and P19, has been confirmed to be P13.
Researchers also in May discovered a new adult lion living West of the 5 Freeway in the Santa Susana Mountains. Named P16, movements will be examined to see if the cougar crosses the 126 Highway, which connects Ventura and the Santa Clarita Valley, in the Santa Clara River Valley. Like the connecdtion between the Simi Hills and Santa Monicas, the wildlife connectivity between the Santa Susanas and Los Padres National Forest is critical in preserving healthy mountain lion populations.