Mountain lion kittens found near Thousand Oaks office building

Mountain lion kittens found near Thousand Oaks office building




Veterinarians in Orange County are working to rehabilitate the two surviving mountain lion kittens from a litter of four that was found last week, huddled together under a picnic table outside a Thousand Oaks office building.

An office worker noticed the kittens on Nov. 29 and called wildlife officials, according to the National Park Service. Biologists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told him to leave them alone in the hope that the kittens would return to the surrounding open space and reunite with their mother.

The next morning, the kittens had moved closer to the office building next to a recycling bin, the park service said. Office workers ultimately saw the felines slowly move into the open space.

Biologists from the park service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife found the kittens close together under thick brush, examined and tagged them and put small VHF radio collars on their necks so they could be tracked and rescued in case their mother didn’t return, according to the federal agency. They were named P-100, P-101, P-102 and P-103 in the park service’s current study of mountain lions.

The kittens weighed 3½ to 4½ pounds and appeared to be about 6 weeks old, the park service said. They were given fluids, and biologists noted that they were nevertheless active, moving around and aware of their surroundings.

After they finished their assessments, biologists returned the kittens to their den in the brush, the park service said. They also set up trail cameras nearby to see if their mother returned overnight.

On the morning of Dec. 1, the kittens were found huddled together about 50 feet from their den, according to the agency. Though camera footage showed the mother hadn’t come back, biologists decided to give her one more night because mountain lion mothers are known to leave their kittens for two or three days to hunt.

They also set bait a few canyons away in case the mother was having a hard time finding food, the park service said.

Later that day, biologists checked the kittens again and noticed that one of them didn’t follow her siblings after they’d moved to a new location and appeared to be in especially poor health, according to the agency.

Biologists rescued the kittens and brought them to a local veterinarian, where two of them died overnight, the park service said.

The next morning, the two surviving kittens were taken to a veterinary hospital in Orange County by Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

Staffers at the hospital are waiting on tests before releasing the kittens to the Orange County Zoo, where they’ll be cared for until a long-lasting home can be found, the park service said.

“We did everything we could to reunite these kittens with their mother, but I’m afraid she was likely already dead or had abandoned them,” said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area who has been studying the mountain lion population since 2002.

The park service has been studying the cougars in and around the Santa Monica Mountains for the last two decades to see how they survive in a fragmented and urbanized ecosystem.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife oversees management and conservation of mountain lions across California.

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