THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) — There’s been a baby boom among the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains with a total of 13 kittens born between May and August.
Not one, not two, but five litters of kittens have been found to have been born in the Santa Monica Mountains this year, with three of them possibly fathered by the same mountain lion, P-63. National Park Service biologists who have been studying the population for 18 years say this is the first time this many mountain lion dens have been found within such a short period of time.
“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, said in a statement.
The first litter found on May 14 belongs to 4-year-old P-54, who was born in January 2017 and fitted with a tracking device as a kitten. Her kittens – males P-82 and P-83 and a female P-84, are believed to have been fathered by P-63, one of only two male radio-collared mountain lions living in the Santa Monica Mountains, but researchers say his paternity has not been confirmed.
On June 19, biologists then found P-19, a 10-year-old who has also been tracked since she was a kitten, gave birth to her fifth litter of all female kittens – P-85, P-86 and P-87. Biologists say she is the oldest mountain lion mother in the study, but the father of the kittens is not yet known. She last gave birth to four kittens in July 2018.
In less than a month, biologists found P-65’s den and three more kittens – P-88, P-89, and P-90, a female and two males — on July 6. P-63, the father of the kittens found in May, may also be the father of these kittens because he and P-65 traveled together for three days in March, according to the National Park Service. This is believed to be the first litter for P-65, a three-and-a-half year-old mountain lion, after surviving the Woolsey Fire and continuing to live within the overall burn perimeter. Last summer, she was the second radio-collared female mountain lion to cross the 101 Freeway to venture into the Simi Hills, only to cross again in November.
The very next day, P-67’s kittens – female P-91 and male P-92, were found in a Simi Hills den, only the second time a litter of kittens was found in this area. P-67 was also tagged as a kitten in 2018, and the father of her litter is suspected to be P-78 because he traveled with her on multiple days, the National Park Service said.
Finally, P-80’s den and two approximately 32-day-old female kittens, P-93 and P-94, were found in a central portion of the Santa Monica Mountains on Aug. 6, researchers said. P-63 is also believed to be the father of this litter because he and P-80 traveled together for four days in April. P-80 – who is estimated to be between 5 and 7 years old — also had her kittens within the Woolsey Fire burn area, but in the southeast corner where there were still healthy, mature chaparral, biologists said.
All 13 kittens were visited by biologists while their mothers were away. Each kitten was given a health check and tagged and returned before their mothers returned.