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News: 04/15/2017

Kittens discovered, first adult male mountain lion collared for study



kittens in den
A den and three 10-day-old mountain lion kittens were discovered by researchers on April 7 in Sonoma Valley. Photo courtesy of Audubon Canyon Ranch

On April 7, three 10-day old mountain lion kittens were discovered by Audubon Canyon Ranch (ARC) mountain lion researchers in a den located near Kenwood and Glen Ellen. Researchers identified the den as belonging to P1, a female mountain lion that has been collared as part of the ongoing study. The team was able to capture photos and video of the tiny lions. The kittens were not touched or handled at all.

“It was essential for the team to visit and verify what was thought to be a possible den site. In order for us to better understand the health of the mountain lion population in our study area, we learn about their reproductive success, population survival, mortality and causes of mortality. Finding a den site in the early stages provides us with a critical starting point,” wrote staff on Audubon Canyon Ranch’s blog “Conservation in Action.” The team tracked the female P1 to ensure she was a considerable distance from the site before they went in to investigate. Knowing what to look for, they found the kittens very quickly and documented them by camera, leaving the site within 10 minutes. ACR’s mountain lion study will not include collaring young kittens.

Before that, on April 1, the ACR team captured and collared their first adult male mountain lion. Named P5 for research purposes, he is the fifth lion captured, and the fourth one to be fitted with a GPS collar. He is expected to have a large home range, possibly up to or even more than 200 square miles. P5 is estimated to be eight years old. Despite being in good condition, he only weighed 110 pounds. Males can get up to 160 pounds on the upper end of the scale. P5 may have three or even four females within his territorial range. The kittens documented this week could very well be his offspring.

P5’s capture and collaring was attended by Dr. Quinton Martins, ACR Mountain Lion Project lead researcher, two team members, veterinarian Dr. Jim Codington, and with the close cooperation of two landowners in the area. ACR’s researchers used a humanely-designed cage trap to capture the animal. The trap was fitted with a radio transmitter and motion-activated cameras, allowing the team to be notified instantly once the mountain lion was inside, minimizing stress and possible injury to the animal. Biological samples will be analyzed at U.C. Davis, and will provide vital genetic and health information about the local population of mountain lions.

A couple of days after being collared in Bennett Valley, pings from his radio collar indicated that P5 had moved 15 miles east into Napa. “We can’t wait to see where he goes from here and what his movements are,” said Dr. Martins.

Follow along with the research at egret.org/blog.

Also, Dr. Martins will host a talk about the Mountain Lion Project on April 20, 6 p.m. at Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen.


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