Camera Catches 'Missing' Lion Kitten, Sibling, Mom in Santa Monicas

Puma kitten P-33 | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Staff at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area got some welcome news by way of a camera trap recently: P-33, a 15-month old puma kitten who had been feared dead, showed up looking quite healthy indeed in some of the images.

The automated photo session in February captured P-33, her brother P-32, and their mama P-19, snacking on a deer carcass in a spot not far from the Ventura County line in the National Recreation Area. P-33 hadn't been seen in some months and was feared dead: she, her brother, and another littermate P-34 have been tracked since they were about a month old.

The National Park Service made the photos available Wednesday on the Santa Monica Mountains NRA Facebook page. We've shared a few here. Due to the presence of the unfortunate deer that made up the pumas' meal, some of the photos might be disturbing to sensitive readers. If that isn't you, keep reading.




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It's clear from the photos that at least in February, both kittens and Mom were looking great. Here's P-33, the rumors of whose death were clearly exaggerated, in apparent good health:

P-33 | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA

As NPS staff point out in their photo captions on Facebook, the photos give a glimpse into how pumas eat their food. Here, P-33 shears off a hunk of meat by using the knife-like carnassial teeth on the side of her mouth:

P-33 chewing | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Brother P-32 is looking pretty fit himself as he examines the camera mechanism:

Curious cat | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Sister P-34 apparently wandered off on her own to make her new life before these photos: puma cubs tend to stay with Mom until they're about a year and a half old. Santa Monica Mountains NRA staff suggest that P-33 and P-32 have probably headed out on their own by now as well. So this shot, which manages to get all three cats in the frame, is a little poignant now. P-19 (Mom) is on the left, P-32 on the right, and that's P-33 taking a little post-meal rest in the background between the other two:

The family | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA

And no collection of photos of one of North America's most fearsome predators is complete without the obligatory photobomb.

Mom is the bomb | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA

You can see the rest of the photos in the set on the Santa Monica Mountains NRA's Facebook page.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
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