The central Santa Monica Mountains have gained two furry additions to their wildlife population. Scientists with the National Park Service are tracking a new litter of bobcat kittens who were born earlier this spring.
Female bobcats in the area are always closely monitored to see if they reproduce regularly, Joanne Moriarty, a wildlife ecologist for the agency, told KPCC. They realized bobcat B-339 would soon bear a litter after she began exhibiting denning behavior, Moriarty said.
The two male kittens were found in an old woodrat nest. They were measured and received ear tags before being returned to their den. Since then, the mother returned and they moved elsewhere, according to the Santa Monica Mountains' Facebook page.
Moriarty said installing a camera near the den allows them to catch a glimpse of the mother and assess her health when she returns to nurse her kittens. Bobcats reproduce every spring, she said.
Here is some up-close footage of B-340 and B-341:
The National Park Service has been studying bobcats in the region for 20 years. Although bobcats aren't an endangered species, Moriarty said that the local population has faced some challenges in the urbanized area. The Parks Service's research focuses on how bobcats survive in the urban landscape, what additional challenges they encounter because of it and their reproductive behaviors. Bobcat kittens are also monitored to determine how often they mature into adulthood.
“We have seen fluctuation in the local population, and so our main focus with them is to make sure their population stays strong in this area," she said.
In the early 2000s, a devastating bout of mange disease — which is caused by microscopic mites — killed about 70 percent of monitored bobcats. She said it's still something that affects them to this day.
A link was found between the spreading of the disease and rodent poison that local residents put around houses and businesses, she said. While the bobcats aren't dying as a direct effect of the poison, it does affect their immune system, making them more susceptible to something like mange disease.
Some of the range's mountain lion population have also died as a result of rodenticide.
Another significant hurdle these bobcats face are the nearby roadways — they often get hit by cars, Moriarty said.
These are problems that can't be fixed overnight, she said, but local residents can take extra precautions to prevent them from happening.
“The biggest thing people can do is potentially slow down, pay attention — especially at night when these animals might be trying to cross the roads," Moriarty said. "As a community, we need to make sure that there are safe passages across roadways for these animals."