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Abandoned by their mother, two mountain lion kittens die in Santa Monica Mountains

Two small mountain lion kittens abandoned by their mother in the Santa Monica Mountains have died, wildlife officials announced Monday.

Known as P-57 and P-58, the male and female kittens were likely their mother’s first litter, according to Kate Kuykendall, acting deputy superintendent for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Park officials know of only three other kittens that were also abandoned by their mothers, and then died.

“Like all wild animals, many young do not survive until adulthood,” Kuykendall wrote on the park’s Facebook account.

P-27 was first photographed in April 2013 when he was 6 years old.
P-27 was first photographed in April 2013 when he was 6 years old. (National Park Service)

What happened?

Park officials think a male mountain lion, known as P-27, visited the cubs’ den. P-27, son of P-1 and P-6, is roughly 9 years old and wanders the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains.

After visiting the den, P-27 and the kittens’ 3-year-old mother, known as P-42, traveled together for six days, according to Kuykendall.

“We have seen a similar scenario in our study when the mom will leave the den with another male, seemingly to distract him from preying on the kittens, and will then return and move the kittens to a new location,” she said.

“Unfortunately, in this case P-42 did not return,” Kuykendall said.

P-42, a young female mountain lion, was spotted near Malibu Creek State Park in July 2015.
P-42, a young female mountain lion, was spotted near Malibu Creek State Park in July 2015. (National Park Service)

Who is P-42?

Biologists think the kittens’ mother dispersed from her mother at a young age. Born in 2014, P-42 was found in the central Santa Monica Mountains.

She was first photographed in July 2015 near Malibu Creek State Park, and outfitted with a tracking device.

Although her mother’s identity is not known, biologists believe her father is P-12, who crossed the 101 Freeway in 2009.

He has fathered at least eight litters and is known as the new king of the Santa Monica Mountains.

According to park officials, P-12 bred with a granddaughter and one of his daughters twice.

P-12 has fathered at least eight litters of mountain lions
P-12 has fathered at least eight litters of mountain lions (National Park Service)

Big cats in the big city

Scientists have been tracking the movements and studying the living habits of more than 50 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002.

Biologists said the mountain lion population appears to be stable, but L.A.’s complex freeway network poses a major obstacle for wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains.

In 2015, the California Department of Transportation proposed building a landscaped wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.

The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long crossing would connect the Santa Monica Mountains with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. It would provide a corridor for wildlife movements.

Authorities said the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing would reduce deaths of mountain lions and other animals trying to trek across the hillsides.

According to Caltrans, the crossing would be first of its kind in California.

“Without the addition of a wildlife crossing, the ecological and environmental impacts on wildlife movement that resulted from the original construction of US-101 will persist,” Caltrans said. “The proposed project would also help mitigate anticipated future effects of climate change on the current distributions of species across habitats.”

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