THOUSAND OAKS -- Three mountain lion kittens have been found by National Park Service researchers off Mulholland Highway.
The 2 females and one male were found May 26th just south of Peter Strauss Ranch.
Wildlife researchers had been monitoring the kittens mother, throughout the spring, after GPS tracking revealed that she and a male mountain lion, spent several days in close proximity in late January.
Adult mountain lions rarely interact with each other except to mate and during conflicts over territory.
Each mountain lion kitten has been implanted with a tracking device that will allow researchers to follow the kittens movement.
This is the first urban mountain lion study that has had the opportunity to track mountain lion kittens from such a young age.
National Park Service researchers will study the new litter to see if the male mountain lion kitten will attempt to disperse to more expansive habitat when he matures, and if the females will have litters of their own in the future.
The litter of kittens is significant in other ways as well.
The unconfirmed father of the kittens, is genetically different from the other mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
He made the only documented successful mountain lion crossing across Highway 101 in spring of 2009 to enter the mountains, and it is possible he came from another region, bringing new genetic material with him.
The National Park Service mountain lion study started eight years ago in July, 2002.
Since then, researchers have tracked 19 mountain lions.
Currently, the study monitors six working GPS collars on adult mountain lions, as well as the three new kittens that are monitored by vehicle or on foot using VHF transmitters.
This is the largest number of mountain lions ever followed at one point in time during the study.
The study data has also informed project proposals currently in progress to establish a safe and effective wildlife crossing point under Highway 101 in the wildlife corridor near Liberty Canyon road in Agoura Hills.
The study has received a variety of federal, state, grant, and donation funding over the past eight years.
It last received funding in 2008, and the National Park Service and its partners are actively working to secure additional funding to keep the project going past 2010.
Mountain Lion Kittens Born in the Santa Monica Mountains
Mountain Lion Kitten Near the Den (National Park Service)