Poisoned Mountain Lion Symbolic of Polluted Natural Environment?

The mountain lion (puma), which scientists call P-22, is the best-known resident of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.  The park is in downtown Los Angeles so the residents of Los Angeles have a mountain lion as a neighbour. The puma may be stuck in the park because of the heavy traffic on the roads (405 and 101) that are adjacent to it although of course he had to cross them to get into the park. A persistent scientist photographed P-22 in the park with the Hollywood sign behind him. What a photograph!

Mountain lion Griffith Park Los Angeles

Screenshot from National Geographic Video.

He looks super-healthy.  Now see the photograph below:

Mountain lion with mange and poisoned by rodenticide

P-22 poisoned and with mange caused by the poison.

P-22 had been fitted with a GPS collar. In March of 2014 a remote camera showed scientist that he had become ill.  It is distressing to see such a magnificent wild cat, a symbol of American nature at its best, looking so utterly miserable and feeling equally miserable, judging by the look on his face.

Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service says:

“It was hard, too bad to see him sick like that,”

It is believed that he had become weak and was suffering from mange because of exposure to rat poison, which seems to allow mange to take hold. For a long time scientists at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area have been researching wildlife exposure to rodenticides which work their way up the food chain from “first-target” rodents to bobcats, pumas and birds of prey.

The poisoning of a puma by rat poison is not that unusual, apparently. In 2004 Seth says that two mountain lions also died by bleeding to death internally from rodenticide poisoning.

The problem is that there are so many rodenticides available to the public on the shelves of large supermarkets and Griffith Park is surrounded by people who go to these supermarkets.

California Assemblyman Richard Bloom has drafted a bill which would ban the poisons in the state and national parks throughout California. Something needs to be done about them. Starting in July “regular consumers” won’t be able to purchase some of the more powerful rodenticides in California. It is good to note that the owner of a company, d-CON, says that his company will stop making many of their products. Well done.

It isn’t just the rodenticides which are a problem.  We all are aware of fertiliser run-off which overwhelms streams and rivers creating huge dead zones.  The nitrogen and oxygen molecules in these fertilisers make their way into rivers and lakes and oceans where they fertilise blooms of algae which in turn deplete oxygen in vast dead zones; another example of many man made pollutants entering nature. A recent story concerned domestic cat feces being flushed down the toilet making its way to the sea causing problems.

As for mountain lion P-22, he was captured and treated for his mange and given a vitamin K injection to try and counteract the effect of the rat poison.

His health certainly improved judging by the video below that was made with a camera trap in Griffith Park. I have added a still frame from the video:

Mountain lion P-22 recovering health after being poisoned with rodenticide.

Mountain lion P-22 recovering health after being poisoned with rodenticide.

“His face has improved. His fur is filled in; the crustiness over his eyes has gone. The lesions on his face, neck area and ears from scratching so much due to the dehydration of his skin has kind of improved,”  said Miguel Ordeñana, a wildlife biologist with the Griffith Park Connectivity Study.

His tail is still too thin indicating a lack of fat.  The tale is an indicator of the health of the animal so he not yet fully recovered.

However, judging by his GPS tracked movements, which are normal, he seems to be in reasonably good health.

However, Kate Kuykendall, spokeswoman for the National Park Service at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area sums up the ongoing problem:

“Although we’re seeing some encouraging signs, the sobering part of this story is that nothing in P-22’s environment has changed — there’s no reason to believe he isn’t at risk for another run-in with either rat poison or mange,”


My thanks to DW for telling me about this story and the websites: npr.org, scpr.org and National Geographic.

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Poisoned Mountain Lion Symbolic of Polluted Natural Environment? — 5 Comments

  1. God awful but fortunate that he’s surviving.
    I’m assuming that the poisons aren’t put in place for the purpose of killing anything other than rodents. That’s a dangerous russian roulette there.
    What kind of human doesn’t have the sense to know that these poison don’t just target rodents and that the affected rodents would be consumed?
    And, why would rodenticides even be needed if there are cats, raccoons, owls, hawks, and snakes around?

    • Exactly, putting down poisons like this on the ground to kill rats and other rodents is fairly convenient to people but very dangerous for wildlife and it isn’t just the beautiful mountain lion who ends up like this but other animals who perhaps feed on the carcass of a dead poisoned mountain lion. The poison goes all the way up the chain killing each time. I find it upsetting because there should really be a greater awareness of nature and wildlife coupled with more respect for it. It’s really about carelessness. As an outsider I view the mountain lion is a magnificent wild cat to be preserved at all costs. If I was in America and came across a mountain lion while walking somewhere I would take the risk of being hurt while doing my best to scare the cat away. I would never consider doing anything other than standing my ground but it seems that too many people like to shoot and hunt this wild cat. It seems to be of low value in American and Canadian society.

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