New photographs of a mountain lion and her offspring are giving park rangers a closer and more intimate look at how the animals are surviving in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The lion, Puma 19, and her 15-month-old kittens, P-32 and P-33, were photographed in mid-February at a kill site on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains near the Los Angeles and Ventura county line, said Ranger Kate Kuykendall, spokeswoman of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
The photographs, she said, provide "cool observations about their behaviors."
The clear, vivid photos show the mother and the offspring -- a male and female -- chewing on a deer carcass. At one point, the mother appears to deliberately step in front of the camera.
The female offspring appeared younger and fluffier in the latest photos too. The young female went to the kill site alone and fed for an hour before her mother and brother joined her.
Offspring usually stay with their mother until they are 1 to 1 ½ years old. Authorities believe the kittens have left their mother since they were last photographed. Another sibling, known as P-34, departed from the group before the photographs were taken.
The kittens are the mother's second litter, and park rangers have been tracking them since they were 4 weeks old.
Park rangers began studying local mountain lions in 2002 and tracking their movements in the Santa Monica Mountains, Kuykendall said.
Because many older male mountain lions have already claimed their pieces of land within the mountain range, the younger animals often have no place to go, Kuykendall said. The lack of territory, she said, has led to intraspecies killings.
Not only are young male lions killed by their own species, but many of them die as they try to cross the 405 and 101 freeways to look for new territory, she said.
Early paternity tests show a puma, known as P-12, is the father of the kittens. The puma is believed to be the first animal tracked crossing the 101 freeway, and surviving.