A video made in Southern California shows two young mountain lions in the wild attempting to roar at scientists but only managing an unthreatening hiss.
Biologists recorded the video in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA), which contains many parks and open space preserves. Administered by the National Park Service (NPS), SMMNRA covers an area of more than 157,000 acres and is one of the best examples in the world of a Mediterranean climate ecosystem.
Mountain lions are a large cat species native to the Americas, with a habitat range stretching from Canada’s Yukon Territory to Chile’s Strait of Magellan. In the United States, they are mostly found in 14 Western states, inhabiting a wide range of environments such as mountains, forests, deserts and wetlands.
The population of these cats in California is estimated to be about 4,000 to 6,000. Human encounters with mountain lions are rare, given their elusive and solitary nature.
The two mountain lion kittens in the video were found by NPS biologists in very dense chaparral—a type of scrubland plant community—in the Santa Susana Mountains, SMMNRA said in a statement.
The female kitten has been given the identifier P-116, while the male kitten is referred to as P-117. Their mother, P-106, is estimated to be around 6 years old and gave birth to them in May. The video, which has been posted to Facebook, was taken at P-106’s den when the kittens were around 24 days old.
“Turn up the volume—it’s the weekend!” SMMNRA said in the Facebook post. “And we literally want you to turn up the volume—for real! The vocalizations from these mountain lion kittens are rad.”
In the clip, the kittens can be seen apparently trying to intimidate the scientists videoing them with vocalizations. But they can manage to only hiss and growl in an endearingly unthreatening way.
The NPS has been studying mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002 to assess how they survive in a fragmented and urbanized environment.
This is the 26th litter of kittens that NPS biologists have marked at the site of the den. Researchers visit dens like these when the mother is away hunting for food, feeding or resting.
“A biologist will track her movements via telemetry while others on the team approach the den area,” SMMNRA said. “Once the den is found, the researchers will conduct a general health assessment of the kittens a short distance away and place them back when finished. This typically takes less than an hour.”
The biologists also determine the sex of each kitten, take various body measurements including weight, obtain biological samples and place one uniquely numbered and colored ear tag on each kitten.
“This tag helps identify them in the future with remote cameras and when recaptured for the placement of a radio collar,” SMMNRA said.