It has been a short, brutal life for the furry offspring of P-23.
At least four of the mountain lion's kittens have met a grisly end: Two were cannibalized by an adult male mountain lion, while two others were killed by an unknown predator.
Recently, however, biologists began to suspect that a fifth and previously unknown offspring of P-23 was in fact alive and well in the Santa Monica Mountains. Their suspicions were confirmed in November when they captured evidence of the young puma.
On Friday, the National Parks Service posted a 45-second video of the kitten, squeaking and walking toward a dead deer.
Biologists believe the kitten is from a litter P-23 gave birth to this year.
“This kitten, now about 6 months old, successfully avoided initial detection from our field biologists and -- somehow -- an attack from an animal that killed its siblings," the parks service said in a prepared statement.
Biologist Jeff Sikich, who has been tracking P-23 and her kittens, was the first to notice something in the mother's behavior that suggested it might have a surviving kitten. It kept returning to the same area.
“The behavior was familiar, but he wanted to know for sure. So he set up a camera trap where P-23 left a deer kill," the parks service said.
P-23 has been an interesting study for biologists. She is a prime example of the dwindling genetic pool that plagues local mountain lions. Her mother was P-19 and her father was P-12, who is also the father of P-19.
Her first litter, also fathered by P-12, was killed by another adult mountain lion identified as P-27.
Her second litter, P-43 and a sibling, were also later killed, but park officials are still trying to figure out more about the deaths.
Biologists believe the latest kitten, to be named P-46, is from the second litter.
“It was great to see that one survived,” Sikich said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
But the kitten still has a tough road ahead.
Sikich said the leading cause of death for kittens is being eaten by an adult male. Later they face the dangers of crossing the 101 Freeway and rodenticide, which is what happens when a puma eats a coyote that may have eaten a rodent that ate poison.
“These mountain lions, they have it tough in this urban fragment of landscape, but there’s hope for them in this environment,” Sikich said. “They’re killing and eating their natural prey. They are successfully reproducing and raising young.”