THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) — A litter of four mountain lion kittens recently found in a remote area of the Santa Monica Mountains is suspected to be the result of their mother mating with her grandson, National Park Service researchers said.
The blue-eyed, spotted kittens appear to be in good health, but inbreeding is a problem for the mountain lions roaming the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, which is hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean, several freeways and encroaching urban development.
“We have documented multiple cases of inbreeding during the course of our study,” biologist Jeff Sikich said in a statement. “The 101 Freeway is a major barrier to movement, which restricts the ability of mountain lions to come into and go out of the area, and unfortunately leads to a lack of breeding options.”
The new kittens, two males and two females, are known now as P-70, P-71, P-72, and P-73. They are the fourth litter of their mother, P-19. The kitten’s father is believed to be P-56, P-19’s grandson, and also the product of inbreeding since his mother, P-23, mated with P-12, who was her own father and grandfather.
Even though genetic testing is needed to confirm P-56’s paternity, P-23 and P-12 spent time together 90 days prior to the birth of the kitten, which is the gestation period for mountain lions.
Biologists say they have taken tissue samples, conducted a general health check and marked the new kittens with ear tags in their continuing study of mountain lions in an urbanized environment.