Adorable mountain lion cubs have been found in the western side of the Santa Monica Mountains, representatives of the National Park Service have recently revealed.
The two kittens, one male and one female, were identified back in December, in a secluded lion’s den, and now bear rather technical names, more reminiscent of android robots than of actually living creatures: P-46 and P-47.
Researchers were able to discover the litter so soon after birth because they have been following their mother, known as P-19, ever since she was just a few weeks old.
For the last 6 years, the female mountain lion’s whereabouts have been constantly monitored via GPS trackers, and that’s how scientists were informed even regarding two other sets of offspring that the wild feline gave birth to.
Those prior litters were conceived after P-19 mated with her own father P-12, and given that DNA test results aren’t yet available, for now it’s unclear if that mountain lion was the one that sired the newly discovered cubs as well.
The last time P-12 made its presence felt was in March 2015, and little is known about its status and condition at the moment.
As biologists speculate, if this puma isn’t the father, it may be that P-19 actually chose P-49 instead, another adult mountain lion that has been recently identified in the area.
According to Jeff Sikich, an expert at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, this may be good news for the local cougar population, since interbreeding is one of the main factors putting the animal’s survival at risk.
The more these cougars manage to reproduce with others whose genetic makeup is more different from their own, the greater the chances that their offspring will be healthier.
Mating with closely related partners often results in a wide variety of congenital deformities and deadly diseases, condemning cubs to lead short and pain-riddled lives, and gradually causing the species’ extinction.
Mountain lions inhabiting the Santa Monica Mountains are already facing significant hazards, being in the immediate vicinity of heavily urbanized areas, so it’s actually quite surprising and gladdening that their numbers are still growing.
Aside from having to defend their own limited territory against attacks from other members of the same species, they also have to avoid ingesting rat poison, which is often left in the area by local residents.
Moreover, the region is strewn with numerous freeways, such as Mulholland Highway, which passes right through it, as well as the Pacific Coast Highway in the south, Interstate 405 in the east and U.S. Route 101 in the western and northern side.
Cougars are therefore quite vulnerable to being run over by speeding vehicles, as they attempt to make such dangerous crossings.
Precisely for this reason, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in conjunction with the California Department of Transportation have proposed a new project, whereby an overpass especially designed for animals will be constructed over Ventura Highway (U.S. Route 101).
Thanks to this crossing, located in Agoura Hills, wildlife will be able to easily move from the Santa Monica Mountains into the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills (or vice versa), without being turned into road kill.
It remains to be seen if the ambitious undertaking, expected to cost between $33 million and $38 million will indeed be implemented, granting bobcats, cougars and other animal species more protection against the growing industrialization and fragmentation of their natural habitat.
Image Source: SCPR
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