See four cute mountain lion kittens discovered near Los Angeles

See four cute mountain lion kittens discovered near Los Angeles

Outdoors

See four cute mountain lion kittens discovered near Los Angeles

A new litter of mountain lions—two males and two females—was discovered in a remote area of the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles recently, the National Park Service announced Tuesday afternoon.

The four-week-old kittens described as having blue eyes and being spotted appeared to be in good health, but researchers believe they are likely the product of inbreeding, a serious problem facing cougars south of the 101 Freeway.

“We have documented multiple cases of inbreeding during the course of our study,” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

“The 101 Freeway is a major barrier to movement, which restricts the ability of mountain lions to come into and go out of the area, and unfortunately leads to a lack of breeding options.”

From the National Park Service:

This is the fourth litter of kittens for their mother, P-19. She is believed to have mated with P-56, an approximately three-year-old male who is also her grandson (P-19 is the mother of P-56’s mother, P-23). P-56 himself is also a product of inbreeding since his mom mated with her own father (and also grandfather), P-12. Although genetic testing is required to confirm P-56’s paternity, the two mountain lions spent time together 90 days prior to the birth of the kitten, which is the gestation period for mountain lions.

National Park Service biologists took tissue samples, conducted a general health check, and marked the kittens with ear tags.

NPS researchers have studied P-19, who is now eight years old, since she was approximately four weeks of age, providing valuable long-term data on the challenges to survival for mountain lions in the area. Of the seven known kittens from her previous three litters, four have died (P-23, P-32, P-33, and P-34), two were never outfitted with GPS collars (P-24 and P-46), and only one is confirmed to be alive (P-47).

The NPS also said that the genetic diversity levels for mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains were found to be lower than those measured anywhere else in the west, and it could ultimately result in the extinction of the animals in the region, according to a 2016 study.

Caltrans is among the organizations working on a plan to create a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway in the Liberty Canyon area to help alleviate this problem.

Photos provided by the National Park Service.

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