Thursday, October 1, 2020

Biologists in Los Angeles tried to trick a mountain lion into fostering two orphaned cubs

The cloak and dagger effort to try to plant two orphaned cubs with a new mom:

“We were careful not to interact with the kittens any more than necessary,” said Beth Schaefer, director of animal programs for the zoo. “These are not animals that we want to become acclimated to human interaction like zoo animals. At the time, we thought they were going back to the wild, so we didn't want them to think that humans were a source of comfort."

On July 16 while P-65 was away from the den, Schaefer brought the orphaned kittens from the Los Angeles Zoo where they had spent the last eight days and met the other biologists in the field. Biologists were able to find two of P-65’s kittens and rubbed urine from one of them onto the orphaned kittens, P-91 and P-92, so that they would smell more like P-65’s own offspring.

Over the next few days, biologists tracked P-65’s movements and noticed that she had moved her den, a normal event for mother lions. On July 20, Sikich and CDFW biologist Dustin Pearce visited P-65’s former den to determine if the new kittens had been left behind. As Sikich got closer, P-91 and P-92 came out and ran directly to him. P-65’s biological kittens were nowhere to be found.

The fostering attempt had proved unsuccessful. The kittens temporarily went back to the Los Angeles Zoo, and then they were moved to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Arizona where they will spend the rest of their lives.