The Los Angeles Times reported last Wednesday that wildlife officials announced two small mountain lion kittens abandoned by their mother in the Santa Monica Mountains have died.
Known as P-57 and P-58, the male and female kittens were likely their mother’s first litter, according to Kate Kuykendall, acting deputy superintendent for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Park officials know of only three other kittens that were also abandoned by their mothers, and then died.
Park officials think a male mountain lion, known as P-27, visited the cubs’ den. P-27, son of P-1 and P-6, is roughly 9 years old and wanders the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains.
After visiting the den, P-27 and the kittens’ 3-year-old mother, known as P-42, traveled together for six days, according to Kuykendall.
“We have seen a similar scenario in our study when the mom will leave the den with another male, seemingly to distract him from preying on the kittens, and will then return and move the kittens to a new location,” she said.
“Unfortunately, in this case P-42 did not return,” Kuykendall said.
Scientists have been tracking the movements and studying the living habits of more than 50 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002.
Biologists said the mountain lion population appears to be stable, but L.A.’s complex freeway network poses a major obstacle for wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains.
In 2015, the California Department of Transportation proposed building a landscaped wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.
The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long crossing would connect the Santa Monica Mountains with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. It would provide a corridor for wildlife movements.
Authorities said the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing would reduce deaths of mountain lions and other animals trying to trek across the hillsides. According to Caltrans, the crossing would be first of its kind in California.
“Without the addition of a wildlife crossing, the ecological and environmental impacts on wildlife movement that resulted from the original construction of US-101 will persist,” Caltrans said. “The proposed project would also help mitigate anticipated future effects of climate change on the current distributions of species across habitats.”