Biologists try to foster orphaned mountain lion kittens

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Biologists studying mountain lions in Southern California tried to get a cougar mom to adopt two orphaned kittens but the experiment intended to keep them wild did not work and the youngsters were put in a sanctuary.

The foster attempt was undertaken this summer, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said in a statement Thursday.

The 3-week-old female and male kittens, dubbed P-91 and P-92, were discovered July 7 in the Simi Hills west of Los Angeles. Biologists examined them while their mother, P-67, was away from the den and soon after she was found dead.

Her kittens were too young to survive on their own, so a researcher with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested fostering the kittens with another mountain lion, P-65, that had recently given birth to three kittens in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The orphans were temporarily housed at the Los Angeles Zoo and then brought to the mountains while P-65 was away from her den. Urine from one of her kittens was rubbed on the orphans and they were placed in the den.

Over the next few days it was determined that P-65 had moved her den, which is normal, but biologists found the orphans at the former den.

The kittens were then sent to live at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A necropsy on their deceased mother found she was relatively thin, had no food in her stomach and had evidence of intestinal disease. She had also been exposed to five anticoagulant rodenticides and another type of potent rodenticide.

Mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains region are being studied to determine how they survive amid urbanization and fragmented habitat.