Most people aren’t likely to look back with much fondness on the summer of 2020, but biologists have cause to celebrate. According to a report released today by the National Park Service, 13 new mountain lion kittens were born to five mountain lion moms in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills between May and August. Five dens is a record for the 18-year period during which NPS researchers have been studying how mountain lions survive in L.A.’s “fragmented” and “urbanized” environment.
The first litter discovered—males P-82 and P-83, and female P-84 born to P-54—was found on May 14 and the most recent litter found—32-day-old female kittens P-93 and P-94 born to P-80—was discovered on August 6.
Once researchers find a den, they wait for the mother to either go out to hunt or get some rest and then descend on the litter to check the kittens’ health and to give each one an ear tag so scientists can identify the individual kittens when they’re eventually assigned radio collars.
Just two years after the Woolsey Fire, researchers are encouraged to see the population grow at this pace. “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,” says Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist who studies mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “It will be interesting to see how these kittens use the landscape in the coming years and navigate the many challenges, both natural and human-caused, they will face as they grow older and disperse.”
Although extended safer-at-home orders have had a number of environmental upsides, a spokesperson for the NPS says it’s “not likely” there’s a connection between people staying home during the pandemic and the proliferation of wildcat kitties.