One of the joys of living in Southern California — other than gloating to friends back East about our fine winter weather — is living so close to nature. But today’s news about the illness of a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains from exposure to rodenticide shows how harmful that closeness can be to wildlife.
I’m proud to say I helped produce the graphic above, which shows how rat poison can work its way up the food chain. Unintended victims like hawks, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions prey on the poisoned rats and mice, and the resulting death is not pretty.
The National Park Service has been studying mountain lions in the Santa Monicas since 2002, monitoring their activity in the wildlands that border suburbia. And now one of those lions, a young tagged male dubbed P-22, is the latest victim of rat poison.
The Park Service says that P-22, shown above, has a bad case of mange stemming from exposure to rodenticide, which contains a blood-thinning anticoagulant. Mange is a secondary disease caused by the poison, which becomes more lethal as it accumulates in larger animals. The deaths of more than 70 bobcats in the Santa Monicas have been attributed to secondary disease related to rodenticide.
P-22 became a feline celebrity back in December when National Geographic ran photographs of him in Griffith Park with the Hollywood sign as a backdrop. The NPS outfitted him with a GPS collar in 2012 in order to keep track of him. He was recaptured in late March to replace a battery in the collar, and treated with an anti-parasitic medicine. Two lions have died from exposure to rodenticide, but hopefully P-22 will survive.
Hiking in mountain lion territory definitely keeps one on his or her toes, but it’s amazing to know that these creatures exist in our local mountains. P-22 was likely born in the Santa Monicas, says the Park Service, and would have had to cross the 405 and 101 Freeways to make it to Griffith Park. Truly an urban survivor.
Artist and art director extraordinaire Ross Toro and I are working on a brochure that will include the rodenticide info shown here, along with tips for homeowners on wildlife-friendly rodent control. Stay tuned. I’ll post that when it’s ready.