- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

CALABASAS, Calif. (AP) - Two mountain lion kittens being tracked by scientists have died in the Southern California wilderness after being abandoned by their mother.

The male and female dubbed P-57 and P-58 were part of a study of cougars by researchers with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which sprawls from Los Angeles westward along the coast.

Biologists have been studying mountain lions in and near the mountains since 2002 to try to understand challenges facing the big cats’ survival in habitat fragmented by development while roads, freeways and the Pacific Ocean limit their movement and genetic diversity.

The kittens were believed to be the first litter for their mother, 3-year-old P-42, National Park Service spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall said via Facebook this week.

An adult male, P-27, had visited the kittens’ den and then he and P-42 traveled together for six days.

Kuykendall said mountain lion mothers have been known to leave their dens with a male to possibly distract him from preying on kittens, then return and move them to a new location. In this case, the mother did not come back.

Out of 31 kittens tagged for the study when they are 4 weeks old, P-57 and P-58 were the fourth and fifth kittens known to have died after being abandoned, Kuykendall said.

Animals in the study are tagged and equipped with GPS collars to track their activities.

The cats face threats ranging from collisions with vehicles to ingesting rat poison, but the leading cause of death is mountain lions killing other mountain lions, according to the National Park Service.

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On the internet: https://www.nps.gov/samo/index.htm

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