Five brand-new mountain lion kittens have been discovered in Southern California.
The two-litter find was made by National Park Service researchers in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains, a Porter Ranch–adjacent range between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest, federal officials say.
The discovery includes two girls, P-48 and P-49, mothered by P-35, a 6-year-old female, according to Park Service authorities. A second litter belonging to a 5-year-old mom, P-39, includes boys P-50 and P-52, as well as a girl, P-51.
The trio was found “in a cavelike area hidden beneath large boulders,” NPS reported in a statement today.
The father of all the little ones is suspected to be P-38, officials say, because he had been seen with both moms previously. He gets around.
“Samples from the kittens were taken for genetic testing, in order to determine paternity with certainty,” according to the NPS statement.
Researchers found the little ones through GPS tracking of the mothers. Even then, dens are needles in a haystack. They're intended to be that way, to protect the kittens from other predators.
“They are in a very hard-to-find location,” National Park Service spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall says. “The mom is thinking about other predators.”
The find is a good sign, according to researchers.
“Despite the challenges mountain lions in this area face, the animals we’ve studied appear to be reproducing successfully,” says Jeff Sikich, a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “The real challenge comes as these kittens grow older and disperse, especially the males, and have to deal with threats from other mountain lions and also road mortality and the possibility of poisoning from anticoagulant rodenticide.”
If you're lucky enough to come across these cuties, don't try to pet them, no matter how adorable they are. It doesn't seem like they're able to rip your face off just yet. But don't test them.