The 4-year-old mountain lion known as P-22 developed a sickness in late March that may have been caused by rat poisoning.
Scientists noticed that P-22, the mountain lion that has made Griffith Park home, looked sick and mangy during a routine recapture. The National Park Service periodically recaptures P-22 to replace batteries in his GPS tracking collar, which they use to study the animal.
P-22 had developed mange, and it’s possible it was due to rodenticide – secondary poisoning.
"Local residents may be putting out rat poison, trying to kill a rat, the rat eats the poison. Then say a coyote comes along, and the coyote eats the rat. And then maybe a mountain lion decides you know, theres not any deer around right now, I’m just gonna go ahead and eat this coyote," Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service said. "So as the rat poison works its way up the food chain, the dose actually gets bigger and it can become more lethal."
Kuykendall added that the National Park Service had documented two other deaths of mountain lions from rat poison as well as coyotes and bobcats that have died directly from the poison.
"Rodenticide is a big problem not only in the city of LA but everywhere," City of LA Wildlife Specialist Gregory Randall said. "It weakens their immune system, makes them more susceptible to other illnesses. A number of them will contract mange. The mange itself may not often kill the animal but sometimes when they scratch at the mange, they open up wounds and get a secondary infection which will often lead to the death of the animal."
P-22 was treated by the scientists and has returned to Griffith Park.
Both Kuykendall and Randall said that P-22 is not a threat to residents of Griffith Park, and that his primary source of food is deer and rodents.
National Park Service will continue to monitor P-22. They track location and movement, as well as investigate his kill sites and monitor what he’s eating.