Newborn Mountain Lions In California Are Products of Inbreeding As Potential Genetic Defects Loom

By Staff Reporter on August 3, 2012 1:44 PM EDT

Puma 22
The red-headed stepchild of mountain lions (Photo: reuters)

Wildlife experts in Santa Monica had a disturbing discovery last Thursday when they found two mountain lion kittens who are products of inbreeding, according to a report by the LA Times.

The two kittens, a male and female dubbed Puma 23 and 24, are the offsprings of a father lion who mated with his female offspring.

The folks at National Park Service actually celebrated the birth, and defended the inbreeding by stating the limiting roaming space for male cats. Not sure how that argument holds up, since Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the largest urban national park in the country.

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Biologists are saying it's not a big problem yet, but if this keeps up, it could prove problematic. Long-term inbreeding could lead to a population of mountain lions with genetic defects that could eventually decrease their population, they say.

"The fact that successful reproduction is occurring in the mountains indicates that we have high-quality habitat for mountains lions here," Seth Riley, a wildlife expert with the National Park Service.

Long term inbreeding endangering a species has happened before. In the early 1990s, the population of panthers in Florida dwindled down to less than 30 because they kept inbreeding--there simply wasn't enough genetic diversity, which led to heart defects and deformed tails. 

In 1995, biologists brought in eight female cougars from South Texas to increase their mating options.

Biologists are saying that they don't believe they need to bring in mountain lions from outside California yet, hoping that these inbreeders will eventually venture out and copulate with someone, you know, who's not in their immediate family. 

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