The Simi Hills is now home to three healthy female mountain lion kittens. Their names are P-113, P-114 and P-115.
The mountain lion dubbed P-77 gave birth to the trio that was found last week nestled in a dense patch of poison oak in the hills between the Santa Susana and Santa Monica mountains, according to the National Park Service.
The kittens were about 24 days old when National Park Service biologists discovered their den northeast of Thousand Oaks. Biologists have been tracking mountain lions as part of a 20-year study with the state.
“It will be interesting to learn how these kittens will use the landscape once they get older and disperse, particularly if they decide to stay in the Simi Hills or cross freeways to enter larger natural areas,” said Jeff Sikich, the lead biologist of the park service’s mountain lion study. “It’s encouraging to see reproduction in our small population of mountain lions, especially after all the mortalities we have documented in the last year.”
Since March 2022, 15 mountain lions have died in the study area, Sikich said; nine had GPS radio collars, and six were not collared. The majority were killed in fatal vehicle strikes, one died of mange, and one was shot, he said.
Park rangers find a new litter of mountain lion kittens in the Simi Hills. (National Park Service)
The most famous big cat to die was P-22, who was born in the Santa Monica Mountains. He died in December at age 12 after he was hit by a car and was euthanized due to long-term health concerns and injuries.
Mountain lions are being killed at a faster rate than they can reproduce, according to a UC Davis study that said 535 mountain lions were reportedly killed on California highways between 2015 and 2022.
P-77, the mother of the three kittens, is estimated to be about 5 to 7 years old, and she established her adult range in a small patch between the 101 and 118 freeways, the National Park Service said. She was first captured in November 2019 and tracked by biologists crossing both freeways and spent time in the adjacent mountain ranges.
“Hopefully, we can follow these kittens as they grow and disperse from their mother,” Sikich said. “It’ll be interesting when these kittens grow up and disperse. Will they cross the hills, cross the freeways or to other areas.”
The kittens were tagged on their ears by biologists and could be radio-collared when they get older.
It’s unclear who the father of the new litter is. Biologists suspect he came from the Santa Susana Mountains and left after mating with P-77.
Biologists believe this is P-77’s second litter. This marks the third litter in the Simi Hills observed by the biologists. One litter was born to P-62 in 2018 and P-67 in 2020, and both mothers have since died, according to the National Park Service.
The Santa Monica Mountains can typically see 10 to 15 adult or younger mountain lions, not counting the cubs, Sikich said.
Carrying on the mountain lion study’s format, the kittens were designated with “P” for puma and a sequential number for their birth order.
“People can feel free to call them whatever name you want to call them,” Sikich said. “It would just be difficult to try and keep track of hundreds of names.”