P-99 the newest mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains research study appears to have been born healthy and doesn’t seem likely to want for food, according to Ana Beatriz-Cholo, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service (NPS).
P-99 is a bit of a mystery, she said, because she wasn’t tagged as a kitten in a den. Many of the kittens are tagged close to birth when their collared mother leaves the den site to hunt or sleep. Researchers take that time to tag and weigh the kittens, take biological samples and be sure they are back in the den before the mother comes home.
.”She wasn’t tagged as a kitten in a den,” she said, “but she could have come from a mother who wasn’t collared.” Which is where the mystery comes in as researchers don’t have an exact number for the cougars living in the Santa Monica Mountains. Some apparently are native to the region and remain unknown.
At least one cat has made the very risky crossing of the freeway. Others have been killed trying which is one reason efforts are underway to build an animal crossing that will save the lives of existing cougars and help solve the problem of inbreeding. The crossing is scheduled to break ground early next year.
Cougars with kinked tails and other signs of inbreeding have been noted, and the issue is a concern to biologists.
One issue doesn’t seem to be a problem: What to eat.
“There appears to be sufficient prey,” Beatriz-Cholo said. The big cats consume mule deer which exist in sufficient numbers to feed them and support 13 kitten who were born in five litters last year. P-19’s kittens are pictured above. Of course the cougars will eat other smaller prey but a large deer, weighing
more than 100 pounds is the best prey option.