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Rodent Poisons May Be Linked to Mountain Lion’s Skin Disease, Researchers Say

National Park Service (NPS) researchers recently recaptured the female mountain lion known as P-53 and treated her for mange, NPS said in a news release.

P-53 was re-captured and collared in February 2019 and treated for mange, a parasitic disease of the hair and skin. (Credit: National Park Service)

P-53 was re-captured and collared in February 2019 and treated for mange, a parasitic disease of the hair and skin. (Credit: National Park Service)

Mange is a parasitic disease of the hair and skin, and although rare in wild cats, wildlife experts said it have seen widespread cases in bobcats of the Santa Monica Mountains since a breakout started in 2002 and caused a “significant population decline.”

P-53 makes the fifth case of mange in mountain lions since the study began in 2002. Researchers noted that the past mountain lions did not suffer the same severe symptoms as bobcats, although two mountain lions— P-3 and P-4 —died of uncontrolled bleeding after ingesting anticoagulant rodenticide poison.

“It’s concerning to see this mange in a mountain lion, because it generally means that the animal is compromised in some other way such as having been exposed to toxicants,” Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and adjunct associate professor at UCLA, said. “We are hopeful the treatment will be successful and that we can monitor P-53’s recovery through remote camera images.”

The connection between anticoagulant rodenticide and mange is not fully understood, but wildlife experts noted that bobcats who have ingested the substance are much more likely to develop severe mange. UCLA researchers have documented significant immune system effects in bobcats exposed to rodenticides.

P-53 was recaptured and treated with a topical medicine, and outfitted with a GPS collar on February 10, after NPS personnel saw remote camera photos and suspected she had mange.

The Griffith Park mountain lion, P-22, also received the same treatment for mange and recovered. P-22 also tested positive for rodenticides at the time.

Last year, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, along with 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 seek alternative methods for rodent control.

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