Orphaned in Simi Hills, California, two kittens are adjusting to life in their forever home at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.
An unsuccessful fostering attempt of two mountain lion kittens has brought them to a new home, according to a press release, detailing how the kittens, found in Simi Hills, California, were left orphaned after biologists with the National Park Service reportedly discovered that their mother, a two-and-a-half-year-old female mountain lion, was dead.
According to the biologists, the three-week old kittens would be unable to survive in the wild without their mother, who reportedly died of rodenticide poisoning, which is common mouse and rat poison primarily used around homes to rid properties of rats and mice with devastating results for other species.
Whatever animal eats the poisoned rat or mouse will suffer the same fate; pets and wildlife included, the release said.
The kittens, now about three months old, are adjusting to their new home and have begun to show typical wild cat behavior such as stalking, wrestling, climbing, and developing their personalities. The female is bolder and the male is laid back, noted the release.
“They are inseparable and a great comfort to each other,” said Linda Searles, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center director, in a prepared statement.
Ms. Searles said the kittens even have a new next-door neighbor and mentor, a 15-year-old mountain lion named Tocho, who they can all live together in his large enclosure if the two kittens and Tocho get along.
“It’s too bad they couldn’t live in the wild, but we’re happy that they can give our old guy companionship,” Ms. Searles said.
The orphaned kittens’ story began when Justin Dellinger, the statewide mountain lion researcher for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested trying what is reportedly the first experiment of its kind for this species in an attempt to foster them.
NPS at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife tried something new for the kittens, noted the release.
Fostering involves getting a wild mountain lion mother to “adopt” kittens that are not hers, which has been regularly successful in other large mammals. However, four days into the attempt the “adoptive” mother moved dens and left the kittens to fend for themselves.
“The story of this fostering attempt is remarkable,” said NPS Superintendent David Szymanski in a prepared statement.
“Biologists and managers from four organizations – a federal agency, a state agency, a city zoo and a private sanctuary came together to try something new – help two orphaned wild animals and further our understanding of this important species.”
“Our shared goal for this project all along was to keep the kittens in the wild and, although the new mother did not accept them, we gained considerable knowledge from this experience,” said Christine Thompson, a CDFW regional biologist, in a prepared statement.
“We were also able to successfully place the healthy kittens in a new home. Many thanks go to NPS, Los Angeles Zoo, and the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center for their dedicated efforts.”
Although unsuccessful, the release said efforts to foster the mountain lion kittens was worthwhile to attempt to keep them in their natural habitat and to learn more about mountain lion behavior, resulting in the kittens being transferred to a safe, new home with a new neighbor and potential roommate.
Southwest Wildlife operates solely from the public’s support and relies on donations and grants to keep the facility open with trained volunteers and veterinarians caring for the animals around the clock, daily.
Established in 1994, the SWCC rescues and rehabilitates wildlife that are injured, displaced, and orphaned. Once rehabilitated, they are returned to the wild. Sanctuary is provided to animals that cannot be released back to the wild.
SWCC also offers educational programs and opportunities in the field of conservation medicine. Wildlife education includes advice on living with wildlife and the importance of native wildlife to healthy ecosystems.
For more information or to donate go to: southwestwildlife.org.
To make a donation or to sponsor an animal: southwestwildlife.org/donate/donate/donate.html.
Also, the nonprofit Scottsdale animal refuge has listed preferred donations on a wish list on its website and an Amazon wish list that includes enrichment toys for the animals as well as other items SWCC needs.