On Saturday, June 20, post-doc Max Allen, technician Chris Fust, and I parked in a grassy field in Wilder Ranch with one mission in mind. We were setting out to visit what we believed to be a newly established den by 25F, a female puma that lives primarily in Wilder. 25F had been present at the den for a few days, so we had waited to go investigate to avoid disturbing her away from her den. Finally, 25F had gone hunting, and we had our chance.
Max, Chris, and I walked across the meadow, through the forest, and down a steep slope as our GPS informed us that we were continuously getting closer. When we were near the den, we split up to try to locate the kittens. Within minutes, Chris had found the den, complete with three nearly 5-week-old kittens. We fitted each one of them with an ear tag for identification purposes and a small, expandable collar that will fall off in a few months. The collar allows us to track their survival in these early and important months of their lives. Find out more about why we collar kittens in an earlier post here.
These kittens live in a pretty pristine area in Wilder Ranch State Park, but they still face some threats. Puma kittens are sometimes killed by male pumas or other predators. They also need a lot of energy and nutrients, so they rely on their mom to have high hunting success. All three kittens are males, so in about a year and a half, they will have to leave their mom and find their own territories, possibly putting them as risk from crossing roads and freeways.
However, for now, the kittens are healthy, feisty, and safe with their mom. We look forward to following their journeys to adulthood!