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Four orphaned mountain lion kittens found in Conejo Valley

National Park Service Photo
Four mountain lion kittens were found in the Conejo Valley November 29th, after their mother was killed or abandoned them.

Biologists and wildlife experts recover the cats, but two of the weakened kittens die

It’s a one of a kind rescue mission which had a less than perfect ending on the South Coast.

Some biologists, and wildlife experts tried to help four mountain lion kittens found motherless, apparently left on their own in the Conejo Valley’s Wildwood park area.

"We first heard about these kittens November 29th. They were found underneath this picnic table up against open space at a office complex in Thousand Oaks," said Jeff Sikich. a National Park Service biologist.

He's been studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area for nearly two decades.

They told the office worker to give the kittens space, and hopefully their mother would return that night. But, the kittens were still there the next morning.

Sikich says while they have been monitoring mountain lions with radio tracking collars as part of their ongoing research, this mother was uncollared and not part of the study.

So, the question was what to do with the kittens? The biologists says the hope was that the kittens mother would return. They tagged the kittens, equipped them with radio monitoring collars to monitor their movement, and even set up a video camera to watch.

Nothing happened the first night. They decided to give it a second day.

But later that day, they decided they had to act, because some of the kittens were obviously in trouble due to the lack of food. The biologists and wildlife experts captured them.

Sikich says they weren’t able to save all of the mountain lion kittens. They were taken to a local veterinarian, but two of the already weakened cats died. Because the other two kittens weren't old enough to learn how to hunt from their mother, they will have to live in captivity for the rest of their lives.

They think the mother is either dead, or she abandoned the kittens.

The researcher says there have been about 25 litters of mountain lions among the big cats they’ve been studying. But, there’s a huge issue. The 101 freeway had acted like a barrier for mountain lions, which have huge home turfs which they like to roam. The result is inbreeding which is threatening the future of the population.

The answer may come in the former of a roughly $90 million dollar project largely funded through donations to build a massive landscaped wildlife crossing. Work is expected to start on the Liberty cCanyon Crossing in the next few months.

As for the two mountain lion kittens, they’ll stay at the Orange County Zoo for now until a permanent home is found for them.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.