As many of you might have heard, a couple of mountain lion cubs were found in Burbank this week hiding under a parked car in a residential area. Many have been curious if we heard about it. Well, as it turns out, we not only have heard about it, but the day after their discovery, our mountain lion biologist, Jeff Sikich, happened to be going out to the Verdugo Hills, the closest natural habitat to where the lions were found. Many, including ourselves, may be surprised that mountain lions could exist in the Verdugo Hills. If you look at the area on a map, you will see it is a very small space, and in itself, not large enough to support a mountain lion population. However, although it is separated from the larger Angeles National Forest by the 210-Freeway, there happens to be an area they can cross the freeway that is relatively safe and accessible for wildlife. So, what lions are found in Verdugo Hills are likely also using the Angeles National Forest area, and if nothing else, the Angeles Forest provides a source population for the Verdugo Hills. The day Jeff headed to the Verdugo Hills, he found lion tracks himself, and ran into a friend that has remote cameras in the hills who has gotten remote camera photos of mountain lions in the Verdugos.
As for the two lion cubs found, we don't know how they ended up there separated from their mom. They were approximately 3 months old, and very emaciated, clearly unsuccessful at hunting sufficiently on their own. Jeff Sikich was able to visit them while they were at the California Wildlife Center to confirm their age and assess their health. Thanks to the California Wildlife Center, we also got hair, fecal, and buccal swab samples from both of them. This is exciting since we are conducting genetic analysis on mountain lions in SMMNRA, and have samples from more continuous habitat in Ventura and LA counties to compare our animals with. So, we will add these Verdugo Hills cubs to our samples and see how their genetics compare with mountain lions from Los Padres, Simi Valley, Santa Susanas, and of course, the Santa Monicas.