Yesterday, we went to Nicene Marks State Park in search of 23F’s new litter of kittens. After her last litter was eaten by an unknown predator before we could count the kittens, 23F quickly bred again and gave birth about three weeks ago!
Using her GPS information, we were able to track down her den and found three tiny kittens! These kittens were old enough to open their baby blue eyes, but not old enough to run away. While they might try to hiss and purr at you, they are completely helpless from predators and are only protected by their mother and by the trees camouflaging their presence.
Moms have a hard time keeping their kittens alive and most don’t survive to dispersal. When they leave their mom after 14-20 months, kittens face even more dangers from other mountain lions, roads, and people.
After collecting some hair from the ground for DNA and taking some photos, we left the kittens so that their mom could come back and check on them. 23F will probably move the kittens to a new location. Using her GPS information, we will now follow her and her kittens from afar, tracking their movements and survival for the coming months.
Photos by Tom McElroy