The up and down saga of local mountain lions continues as four kittens were found under a picnic table in Thousand Oaks. Two of the four female kittens, died and the others are under veterinary care while authorities try to find them a home.
The story highlights cooperation between the public and local wildlife agencies and spotlights many of the uncertainties surrounding the adaptable and resourceful cats as they struggle to survive in an urban environment.
The four girls were spotted November 29 by an office worker under a picnic table adjacent to an office building which abuts open space. California wild life biologists hoped to reunite the kittens with their mother and told the worker not to disturb the animals, thought to be about 6 weeks old. When first spotted the kittens were thin but active and appeared healthy. The mother was nowhere to be found and is not part of the National Park Service (NPS) Study which has been ongoing for about 20 years. The NPS and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) partnered in the caring for the kittens. NPS is currently monitoring about a dozen collared cats in the area.
NPS has studied 104 mountain lions, including these four since the study began. Their fragmented urban home means they face danger from each other due to crowding; traffic hazards from thousands of cars in the area; the risk of poisoning from rodent bait used to control rats; and the increasingly real threat of inbreeding. Kinked tails and undescended testicles are cropping up in cats being studied. A freeway overcrossing planned to break ground early next year is expected to help alleviate some of these issues.
Despite all the tracking efforts of the biologists there seem to be mountain lions out there unknown to researchers, including the mother of this litter.
Biologists decided to monitor the kittens in hopes the mother would return, as females sometimes stay away from the den for extended periods searching for food. The kittens moved around a bit so biologists moved in and gave them a workup and fitted them with kitten size expandable collars so they could be tracked and captured as biologists were worried the mother had either died or abandoned the litter.
Biologists hoped to reunite the four girls with their mother and set up a trail camera to see if she came back. By December 2 the trail camera had shown no results and the kittens appeared to be in declining health, one unable to follow as the four moved around in the area near where they had been found. Biologists then decided to rescue the four cats and take them to a veterinary hospital. The kittens were numbered P 100 through P104. P100 and P102 succumbed and the other two are under veterinary care awaiting test results. They will be placed in the Orange County Zoo until a permanent home can be found. They cannot be returned to the wild as they are too young to fend for themselves. They may spend their lives at one of a number of wildlife shelters in California or around the nation.