A Northern California animal project has captured a mother mountain lion and her chirping 11-day-old cubs in their den on a breathtaking video in an effort to make humans more compassionate about the wild cats struggling for survival.
The mom and babies are holed up in an undisclosed location in Sonoma County north of San Francisco.
The mother, known as P-1 by scientists, has given birth to three litters, but this was the first time researchers were able to track her to her den via her GPS collar, reports KGO-TV in San Francisco.
Wildlife ecologist and large cat expert Quinton Martins managed to find the well-hidden den after he noted P-1 had left to hunt, leaving her tiny cubs behind.
When P-1 returned, she sniffed the camera Martins had planted in the cave, then went about her business and nursed her cubs.
The nonprofit Living With Lions project is part of the Audubon Canyon Ranch organization in Marin County, north of San Francisco. Besides studying the lions, scientists hope that familiarizing people with the North Bay’s big cats will help residents understand them better and be more tolerant, which could help the animals survive.
Mountain lions are apex predators and play a critical role in the “maintenance and functioning of our natural ecosystems,” notes the Living With Lions website. “Yet mountain lions themselves live a fragile existence as more of us choose to live and play in wild places.”
The lions are protected but can be legally killed if they attack livestock or pets.
None of P-1′s cubs from her earlier two litters are still alive. Three cubs died of natural causes. Two others made it to young adulthood but were killed after they attacked livestock, Martins told KGO-TV.
Living With Lions is teaching residents who live among the mountain lions that livestock must be kept at night in predator-proof enclosures or in barns, and dogs and cats can’t run free at night. Killings by the mountain lions often occur at small hobby farms where animals are left outside. The organization offers expertise and works with property owners to help them coexist with the big cats.
The Living With Lions project is partnering with Wildlife Rescue to increase community outreach and education. Nine mountain lions in the North Bay have been fitted with tracking collars.