LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three mountain lion kittens born last month in the Santa Monica Mountains were inbred, a wildlife expert said, marking a troubling sign for a population penned in by the urban sprawl of metropolitan Los Angeles.
Preliminary DNA tests indicate that the male and two females born in the Malibu Springs area were sired by an adult male and his daughter, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area announced Thursday.
The mother was tracked by a radio collar as part of a decade-long study of the local puma population, and the 3- to 4-week-old kittens were given ear tags, said Seth Riley, an urban wildlife expert with the recreation area, which is a unit of the National Park Service.
Two other kittens born in 2012 were produced by the same mother and father, he said.
Over the years, researchers have found seven mountain lions that were the products of inbreeding, Riley said.
Riley says the kittens were healthy but there's concern that without new blood, eventually inbreeding could cause physical defects, such as heart problems and sterility.
The lions live in a patchwork of local, state and federal parkland that stretches westward from Los Angeles into Ventura County.
About a dozen pumas roam the area, but it's a tight squeeze when adult male pumas typically each have huge territories, Riley said.
The area is surrounded by densely populated areas and is bounded by such major highways as U.S. 101, which is heavily developed along most of its length.
"There's almost no place left where there's natural habitat (along the route) ... it's just a huge barrier for all animals," Riley said.
Young male mountain lions that typically would seek their own territories have been unable to leave and have been killed by an older male, Riley said.