The mountain lion known as P-47 was recently found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains, and lab results indicate he may have succumbed to poisoning from anticoagulant rodenticide.
“P-47’s remains were discovered on March 21, after his GPS collar sent out a mortality signal and NPS biologists hiked in to find him in the central portion of the mountain range,” explained Kate Kuykendall, the Public Affairs Officer and Acting Deputy Superintendent for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “He did not have any visible wounds, Kuykendall wrote in the announcement. “Testing on a sample of his liver showed that the three-year-old male had been exposed to six different anticoagulant compounds, and a necropsy conducted by the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab found internal hemorrhaging in his head and lungs.”
“It’s unfortunate to see an otherwise healthy mountain lion lost from what appears to be human causes,” said Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “In P-47’s case, it’s also a big loss because we don’t believe he had yet mated and passed along his genes, which would have been valuable since he had ancestry from north of the Santa Monicas.”
P-47’s father is thought to have been P-45, the mountain lion who gained national attention in 2016 after a Malibu Springs resident took out a depredation permit to kill the big cat, that was rescinded. “DNA results indicated that P-45 came from north of the 101 Freeway, so he increased the genetic diversity of the isolated population south of the freeway when he fathered P-47 and his sister, P-46. P-45 is now believed dead,” Kuykendell said.
Like his father, P-47 weighed in at 150 pounds at his most recent capture, tied for the largest among all the mountain lions in the history of the NPS study.
Researchers believe mountain lions are exposed to rat poison through secondary or tertiary poisoning. The big cats are apex predators that can consume an animal that has eaten the bait, or another predator like a coyote that has consumed rodents exposed to the poison.
Anticoagulant rodenticides are designed to make their target victims bleed to death internally. It’s not a quick death, and any predator that consumes a poisoned rodent will also be exposed to the toxic effects of the poison, which can build up in the animal’s liver. In addition to causing direct death by poison, the rodenticides can also weaken the animals immune system, leaving it susceptible to a potentially life-threatening mange infestation.
National Park Service researchers have studied the local mountain lion population since 2002. They have documented the presence of anticoagulant rodenticide compounds in 21 out of 22 local mountain lions that they have tested, including in a three-month-old kitten. Recent testing of P-64, who died a few weeks after the Woolsey Fire, also found six different anticoagulant compounds in his liver.
“The mix of first-generation and second-generation anticoagulant compounds found in both P-47 and P-64’s systems were brodifacoum, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, difethialone, diphacinone, and difenacoum,” the report states.
Last year Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, along with their park friends group, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, launched #BreakThePoisonChain, an educational campaign to raise awareness about the negative impacts of anticoagulant rodenticides and encourage local residents to use alternative methods for rodent control.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom, with the encouragement of advocacy organizations like Poison Free Malibu, Project Coyote, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Raptors Are the Solution, is pressing for stronger limits on this class of rodenticides statewide. Bloom is the author of AB 1788, which would ban First and Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides. If passed, California would be the first state to ban these products.