Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area/Facebook

In these captivating photos, a mother and her kittens chow down on a deer in the Santa Monica Mountains.

It was meal time in the Santa Monica Mountains and a family of mountain lions sat down to devour a deer carcass. Nearby, a remote camera set up by the National Park Service watched as they ate. In most of the photos, the lions pay no attention to the camera, content to munch on a detached deer leg. But in a few, the carnivores stare directly into the lens, offering a glimpse into their enormous golden eyes.

Earlier this week, the rangers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area shared these photographs on their Facebook page. The images are captivating enough on their own, but they are also important for another reason entirely: they remind us that we aren't the only animals trying to find our place in the urban ecosystem.

"Many people are surprised to hear that mountains lions still live in the chaparral-covered mountains so close to urban Los Angeles," notes the Santa Monica Mountain website. But they do, and we would all do well to remember that there really is no firm line between cities and nature. Something wild is always happening just around the corner.

Warning: If you can't stomach a little gore (albeit totally natural, circle-of-life gore), don't scroll any further than this.  

P-33, one of the kittens (the park rangers refer to each cat by numbered nicknames), chows down. "Mountain lions feed on deer by entering the abdominal cavity first and eating the insides, such as the liver and the heart," Ranger Kate helpfully notes.
Mom (P-19) and brother (P-32) finally join.
Mom approaches the camera.
A full shot of P-33 hovering over her meal.

All photos courtesy of the National Park Service.

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