When the Woolsey Fire burned more than 100,000 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains less than two years ago, it was hard on the local mountain lion population. In addition to habitat depletion, the fire killed at least one adult mountain lion: P-64. But now that vegetation has regrown and more food (mainly deer) is available, the population has started booming.
In total, 13 kittens were born to five mountain lion mothers from May to August, according to the biologists of the National Park Service who work in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The litters were found in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.
Calling it a “summer of kittens,” this is the greatest number of dens with kittens that the biologists have ever found in one season in nearly 20 years of studying the local big cats.
"This level of reproduction is a great thing to see, especially since half of our mountains burned almost two years ago during the Woolsey Fire," Jeff Sikich, a National Park Service wildlife biologist, said in a statement Wednesday. “The last litter of kittens that we marked at a den was from P-19, during the summer of 2018.”
Since P-63 is the only adult male radio-collared mountain lion living in the Santa Monica Mountains, it is assumed that he is the father of all the kittens in the mountains. Researchers believe this may be the first time P-63 has fathered kittens; and they’re hopeful he brings much needed genetic diversity to the isolated and inbred local population. P-63 was originally tagged in the Simi Hills and has, amazingly, crossed the Ventura (101) Freeway three times without getting killed. He’s been living in the Santa Monica Mountains since December 2018.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct an inaccurate headline.