Photo and Video Credit: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

National Park Service researchers recently discovered a litter of four mountain lion kittens in the Simi Hills, a small area of habitat wedged between the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountain ranges.

All four kittens are females and are now known as P-66, P-67, P-68, and P-69.  The blue-eyed, spotted kittens weigh between four and five pounds and, when found, were around four and half weeks old. National Park Service biologists took tissue samples, conducted a general health check, and marked the kittens with ear tags. Researchers have been tracking the kitten’s mother, known as P-62, since January. P-62 has the distinction of being the only full-grown mountain lion out of the ten being tracked by the National Park Service that hasn’t crossed either the 101 or 118 freeways. However, with a new family, that may soon change.

“We are very interested to learn about how they will navigate the fragmented landscape and whether they will remain in the Simi Hills or eventually cross one or more freeways to the north or south,” says Jeff Sikich, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The area in Simi Hills that the kittens were found in may prove to be critical for mountain lions, as it connects the Santa Monica Mountains to larger natural areas up north. This is the fifteenth litter of kittens marked by National Park Service biologists at a den site, but the first at this particular den in Simi Hills.

The National Park Service has been studying mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002 to determine how they manage to survive in an increasingly fragmented and urbanized environment. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for overseeing the management and conservation of mountain lions in the state.