Three young bobcat kittens were found in the cavity of a large oak tree in an area that was intensely burned in the Woolsey Fire that swept through Calabasas and other areas in the Santa Monica Mountains about 2 1/2 years ago, the National Park Service announced Thursday.
The bobcat kittens were weighed and measured, given a general health check and ear-tagged for the purpose of future identification after being discovered last month by biologists, who located the cats’ mother using VHF radiotelemetry and GPS points from its collar, according to the National Park Service.
Biologists determined that the bobcat, dubbed B-370, had repeatedly been returning to the same area, indicating that she had likely given birth, but were surprised to spot her and the kittens in a small hole in the oak tree because it is unusual for bobcats to “den” in trees.
The following day, biologists used a ladder to take the kittens — B-379, B-380 and B-381 — out of the tree one-by-one and inspect them before returning the female kitten and two male kittens to their tree cavity home while the mother was away from her den, presumably hunting. The kittens were believed to be about a month old at the time.
Scientists believe the bobcat decided to use the tree cavity as a den because much of the existing natural habitat in the surrounding area was destroyed after the Woolsey Fire, which burned nearly 97,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and destroyed about 1,645 structures as the blaze swept through the area in November 2018.
Very little vegetation has grown since the fire destroyed nearly half of the natural area in the Santa Monica Mountains and about two-thirds of the natural habitat in the Simi Hills, according to the National Park Service.
The bobcat lives in the southeast end of the Simi Hills and had been fitted earlier with a radio collar so her movements could be tracked.
Bobcat kittens typically stay in the natal den for four to five weeks before the family moves on to other dens used for shorter periods, according to researchers. The mother typically cares for the kittens until they are 9 to 11 months old and slowly become independent while still occasionally checking in with her.