Orange County vets are working to rehabilitate the two surviving mountain lion kittens from a litter of four found last week huddled under a picnic table outside a Thousand Oaks office building.
An office worker noticed the kittens on November 29 and called wildlife officials, according to the National Park Service. Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told him to leave them alone in the hopes that the kittens would return to the surrounding open space and reunite with their mother.
The next morning, the kittens moved closer to the office building next to a recycling bin, said the parking service. Office workers finally saw the cats move slowly into the open space.
Park Service and State Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists found the kittens close together under thick bushes, examined and tagged them, and placed small VHF radio collars around their necks so that they could be tracked and rescued if their mother did not return. according to the federal authority. They were named P-100, P-101, P-102, and P-103 in the valet’s ongoing study of mountain lions.
The kittens weighed 3½ to 4½ pounds and appeared to be about 6 weeks old, the valet said. They were given fluids and biologists found that they were still active, moving, and aware of their surroundings.
After completing their examinations, the biologists returned the kittens to their den in the brush, the valet said. They also set up wildlife cameras nearby to see if their mother returned overnight.
On the morning of December 1, the kittens were found about 15 meters from their den, according to the agency. Although camera footage showed the mother had not come back, biologists decided to give her one more night, as mountain lion mothers are known to let their kittens hunt for two or three days.
They also lured bait a few canyons away in case the mother had trouble finding food, valet said.
Later that day, biologists re-examined the kittens and found that one of them did not follow their siblings after they moved to a new location and appeared to be in particularly poor health, according to the agency.
Biologists rescued the kittens and took them to a local veterinarian, where two of them died overnight, the valet said.
The next morning, the two surviving kittens were taken to an animal hospital in Orange County by biologists from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hospital staff await tests before releasing the kittens to the Orange County Zoo, where they will be looked after until permanent homes can be found, the valet said.
“We went out of our way to reunite these kittens with their mother, but I’m afraid she was probably dead or abandoned,” said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area who studied the mountain Lion population since 2002.
Valet parking has studied the cougars in and around the Santa Monica Mountains for the past two decades to see how they survive in a fragmented and urbanized environment.
The State Department of Fish and Wildlife oversees the management and protection of mountain lions across California.