America’s favorite big-city big cats have welcomed five kittens to their crew.
Two new litters of baby mountain lions were captured on video in the Santa Susana Mountains north of Los Angeles, the National Park Service said Wednesday. And, no surprise, they nailed their Hollywood-area debut with adorable hisses, deep blue eyes and darling little claws.
The discovery of the kittens is significant because L.A.’s mountain lion population doesn’t have it easy. Those in the Santa Monica Mountains, to the south, are hemmed in by multi-lane highways, which has prevented migration and led to an inbred population, and rodent poison is a regular threat. One lonely lion known as P-22 has a big social media following but no lady lions to consort with.
Lions must also dodge cars near the kittens’ home, the Santa Susanas, which are a key gateway connecting the animals with their brethren in the Santa Monicas and the Los Padres National Forest. The kittens were captured and ear-tagged by the Park Service, which for 14 years has been studying how mountain lions in and around Los Angeles are coping with an urbanized and increasingly fragmented habitat.
“Despite the challenges mountain lions in this area face, the animals we’ve studied appear to be reproducing successfully,” Jeff Sikich, a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a statement about the kittens.
The tougher part is surviving. The mother of one of the litters had another kitten in 2015, and the Park Service said Wednesday that biologists believe it did not make it to adulthood.