Two new mountain lion kittens have been found in the Santa Monica Mountains, and their parentage appears to highlight the continuing problem of inbreeding in a land-locked area starving for genetic diversity, National Park Service officials announced Tuesday.
The kittens, one male and one female, have been dubbed P-59 and P-60, and they are the first litter of 2-year-old P-53.
Although NPS officials are still awaiting DNA confirmation, the kitten's father is believed to be P-12, the only lion documented to have crossed into the Santa Monica Mountains from the north. He is known to be prolific in terms of mating with females, including his own offspring.
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"If P-12 is in fact these kittens' father, that also means he's their grandfather, their great-grandfather and their great-great-grandfather," said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. "Inbreeding to this degree really highlights the need for providing safe passage across the 101 Freeway so new mountain lions can enter the population and breed."
Planning and fundraising are continuing for a proposed wildlife crossing over the freeway in the Agoura Hills area.
A study released last year concluded that without an increase in genetic diversity, the mountain lions in the Santa Monica range are facing possible extinction within 50 years.