Biologists have counted 13 mountain lion kittens born this spring and summer to five different mothers in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, the National Park Service announced.
During an 18-year study, this is the first time this many mountain lion dens have been found between May and August. Previous to this, the record was four dens, but that was spread over 10 months in 2015.
“This level of reproduction is a great thing to see, especially since half of our mountains burned almost two years ago during the Woolsey Fire,” Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist who has been studying the big cats in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a statement this month.
“It will be interesting to see how these kittens use the landscape in the coming years and navigate the many challenges, both natural and human-caused, they will face as they grow older and disperse,” he added.
SUMMER OF KITTENS! 🐱 It’s been one mountain lion kitten den after another for biologists in the Santa Monica Mountains & Simi Hills. In total, 13 kittens were born to 5 moms between May-Aug 2020! https://t.co/q9VunUOi5D. #santamonicamountains pic.twitter.com/6Vb8CeWz8g— Santa Monica Mtns (@SantaMonicaMtns) September 2, 2020
Studying the mountain lion is no easy task.
Scientists wait until the mother mountain lion is out hunting, feeding or taking a rest before they approach her den.
Her movements are tracked by telemetry, which allows biologists to approach the den area.
That’s when they can assess the kittens just outside the den — a process that doesn’t take long.
They look at their sex, size, take some biological samples and tag them.
“This tag helps to identify them in the future with remote cameras and when recaptured for the placement of a radio-collar,” the park service said.
Then, the kittens are all returned to the den before their mother comes back.
Since 2002, the National Park Service has been studying mountain lions around the Santa Monica Mountains, which is the largest urban national park in the United States, covering more than 150,000 acres.
They want to see how mountain lions, also known as cougars, survive in a fragmented and urbanized environment.
Photos: National Park Service/Flickr