The two surviving kittens found under a park bench in Thousand Oaks and brought to the Orange County Zoo are doing well and gaining weight, a zoo representative told Wild Animal News in an email.
Marisa O’Neil said the kittens now weigh 22 pounds and are “gaining weight steadily.” Mountain lion kittens weigh about 1 pound at birth. She said they two girls “are progressing as we would expect and hitting milestones.”
Whether the kittens have been named yet was not disclosed. Their interactions with humans began November 29 last year when they were spotted, with two other siblings, under a picnic bench in Thousand Oaks. The bench was located near an office building that abutted wild areas, according to news reports. The mother was not present and is believed to have been killed or to have abandoned the litter. State and federal wildlife agencies were notified and monitored the kittens, hoping the mother would return. She did not, and two of the kittens began to weaken, so the authorities stepped in. The four were taken to veterinary facilities, but two did not survive. The Orange County Zoo has taken the survivors.
The zoo is preparing to open a large mammal enclosure. No exact date has been given, but the new feature should open in the spring, O’Neil said. The zoo appears to be a good match for the two kittens as it focuses on wildlife found in the southwestern United States.
“The Zoo’s focus is on animals and plants native to the southwestern United States,” The OC Zoo website says, ” Many of our animals are injured, orphaned, confiscated, or not releasable into the wild. Animals on exhibit include black bear, mountain lion, bald eagle, kit fox, ocelot, beaver, great horned owl, porcupine, coyote, turkey vulture and more. ” But wild animals are not the only residents. “The zoo also features a barnyard with domestic goats and sheep,” according to the website.
Much media focus has been given to mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.The National Park Service (NPS) has been studying cougars there for about 20 years and has entered about 100 animals into its records. Mountain lions in that study face challenges from auto traffic, inbreeding and pesticides. Orange County, meanwhile, is also home to its own mountain lion population. The mountain lions of Orange County are estimated to number about 30, which is believed to be the carrying capacity for the region. They are not currently being studied but it is feared that because they are walled off from other mountain lions they face the same inbreeding risks their Los Angeles County relatives face, along with threats from cars and pesticides as well.