In what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind attempt, biologists tried to foster two orphaned mountain lion kittens found in Simi Valley back in July.
Fostering involves getting a wild mountain lion mother to “adopt” the kittens and care for them as her own, according to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area officials.
While the attempt was unsuccessful, scientists said it was “a worthwhile undertaking to try and keep two wild animals in their natural habitat and to learn more about mountain lion behavior.”
The kittens, female P-91 and male P-92, were just three weeks old when their mother, P-67, was found dead. P-67 had evidence of intestinal disease and had also been exposed to multiple rodenticides, officials said.
Without a mother, the young kittens could not have survived, according to wildlife biologist Jeff Sikich.
Since it’s illegal to raise or rehabilitate and then release mountain lions in California, the kittens were facing a life in captivity.
But a California Department of Fish and Wildlife researcher suggested having another mountain lion, P-65, foster the two kittens.
P-65 had recently given birth to three kittens that were about the same age.
While the mountain lion mother was away from her den, biologists found two of her kittens and rubbed urine from one of them on the orphaned kittens so they’d smell like her offspring.
But when a biologist visited the den a few days later, P-65 and her kittens were gone and P-91 and P-92 were left behind. They directly ran up to him.
The kittens temporarily went back to the Los Angeles Zoo, before they were moved to their “forever home” at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, officials said.
The kittens are now about three months old and they are showing typical wild cat behaviors like stalking, wrestling and climbing, Santa Monica Mountains officials said.
The Arizona sanctuary now describes P-91, the female, as being bold, while her brother is more laid-back.
“They are inseparable and a great comfort to each other,” sanctuary director Linda Searles said in a statement.
If they get along, the kittens will be sharing a large enclosure with 15-year-old mountain lion “Tocho.”
“It’s too bad they couldn’t live in the wild, but we’re happy that they can give our old guy companionship,” Searles said.