Researchers with the National Park Service (NPS) have just discovered four little blue-eyed mountain lion kittens living in California’s Simi Hills, who have brought hope for a population that’s in serious jeopardy.
According to the NPS, all four of the kittens are female, who are just over four-weeks-old, have become officially known as P-66, P-67, P-68 and P-69. The agency has been tracking their mother, P-62, since January, and finally found her den site this month.
The discovery marks the first time mountain lion kittens have been found in this area, which is nestled between the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountain ranges.
“This is the first litter we have marked at the den in the Simi Hills, which happens to be a critical habitat linkage between the Santa Monica Mountains and larger natural areas to the north,” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “We are very interested to learn about how they will navigate the fragmented landscape and whether they will remain in the Simi Hills or eventually cross one or more freeways to the north or south.”
For mountain lions in this area, these kittens are especially good news. The population has been seriously impacted by our activities, which have put their future survival in question.
The area’s network of multi-lane freeways are an immense and very deadly barrier for these mountain lions. Sadly, since 2002, 18 of them have been killed in collisions with vehicles while they attempted to cross.
Without the ability to expand and establish new territories, they face not only the threat of deadly encounters with territorial older members of their own species, but also major problems that come with a lack of genetic diversity. Researchers recently gave them a 99.7 percent chance of going extinct in the next 50 years due to inbreeding.
Fortunately, these mountain lion shave advocates who want to see them thrive in what’s otherwise perfect habitat for them. They have been working on plans to build a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills to connect habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains in an effort to give them a safe corridor to expand. The project has been approved by Caltrans, but progress towards getting it done is now a matter of funding.
Hopefully the project will move forward in time to give these mountain lion kittens and their relatives a fighting chance to survive.
For more on how to help support a wildlife crossing to protect Santa Monica’s mountain lions, check out Save LA Cougars.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 20 Jun 2018.