Two mountain lion kittens recently born in the Santa Monica Mountains are not only adorable but they're the latest research subjects helping to track how these creatures survive in Greater Los Angeles.
The female kittens were found in a remote mountain area near Malibu Creek State Park, and in the Santa Susana Mountains -- opposite ends of the study area, according to Kate Kuykendall, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service.
The three- and four-week-old kittens were named P-43 and P-44 by park researchers, who began studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2002.
P-43 is believed to be the offspring of P-23, who gained recognition after a motorcyclist took a photograph of her atop a deer on Mulholland Drive.
P-23's last litter was fathered by her father, P-12, a male who crossed the eight-lane 101 Freeway in 2009.
Using a GPS device, biologist Jeff Sikich searched for 45 minutes in a den where the mother was believed to have given birth near Malibu Creek State Park and finally found P-43 under thick brush.
After removing the kitten, a small team of biologists checked its health, took blood and tissue samples and measurements and placed tags on its ears.
P-44 was found farther north in the Santa Susana Mountains. Her 5-year-old mother, P-35, was collared in April 2014. Researchers believe P-44 could be a member of her second litter.
DNA results are not yet available, but Sikich believes a male mountain lion, P-38, could have fathered the kitten because data show they traveled together for a few days three months before the kitten was born.