A 3-year-old mountain lion being studied in the Santa Monica Mountains has died, apparently after consuming rat poison, officials said Tuesday.
The remains of P-47 were discovered without any visible wounds on March 21 in the central part of the range, according to a news release from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
National Park Service biologists hiked to the location after his collar sent out a mortality signal, according to the release.
Testing conducted on a liver sample showed the cougar had been exposed to six different anticoagulant rodenticide compounds, also known as rat poison. A necropsy determined P-47 had 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 wildlife ecologist Seth Riley, according to the release. “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.”
It is unclear how exactly P-47 ingested the poison, but researchers believe cougars are typically exposed through secondary or tertiary poisoning: that is, they ate an animal that consumed the toxic bait.
Lab tests for P-64, who was found dead late last year after surviving the Woolsey Fire, also showed six different rat poison compounds in his liver. In fact, of the 22 mountain lions who have been tested, all but one had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticide compounds, park officials said.
Legislation introduced in the California Assembly seeks to ban pesticide containing specific anticoagulants in wildlife areas across the state.
P-47 was born in November in 2015. He was just one of just two known offspring of P-45, a mountain lion who gained national attention the following year when the big cat slaughtered some 10 alpacas at ranches in the Malibu area.
P-45’s status is currently unknown, although officials believe he is dead.
The mother, 8-year-old P-19, has been tracked since the age of 4 weeks old and is still alive, according to the park service. She’s given birth to four litters, the last in July 2018.
It’s unknown whether the 3-year-old’s sibling — a female known as P-46 — is still alive, as she was never outfitted with a GPS collar.
P-47 and his father both weighed 150 pounds, making them among the largest mountain lions in the history of park service’s study in the Santa Monica Mountains, which began in 2002.