Griffith Park Mountain Lion's Health Improves

P-22 in early May 2014 | Photo: Griffith Park Connectivity Study | Miguel Ordeñana

There's some good news for those worried about the ailing Los Angeles mountain lion P-22, whose health took a hit after the animal contracted a bad case of mange linked to ingesting rodent poisons. The big cat's doing better, at least for the time being, after a bit of veterinary care.

Our colleague Jed Kim over at KPCC broke the happy news yesterday: footage from the Griffith Park Connectivity Study's trail cameras shows that after his capture and treatment in March, P-22's mange symptoms seem to have lessened and he's apparently gaining weight again. That's very good news for a cat afflicted with a disease that interferes with hunting.

In footage captured last week, P-22 displays a much healthier coat of fur, strong evidence that the disease -- which causes intense irritation, scratching, scabbing, and dehydration -- has lessened significantly. Though he's not out of the woods yet -- said woods still being full of carelessly used rat poisons and the animals who consume it -- it's promising news not only for P-22 and his admirers, but for those hoping to treat other wildlife for rodenticide-related mange.

Scientists don't quite understand why mountain lions and bobcats exposed to anticoagulant rat poisons seem to become more susceptible to mange, a disease caused by mite infestation. But there is a solid link, and until anticoagulant rat poisons are removed from the market the threat will continue.

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A dozen formulations of over-the-counter anticoagulant rodenticides will be taken off the market next year, but that move, the result of a settlement between the EPA and the manufacturer of d-Con brand products, doesn't address other anticoagulant household rodenticides, nor the burgeoning agricultural and exterminator market.

The rodenticides detected in P-22's blood in March would not be affected by the removal of the d-Con products, according to KPCC.

The threat to bobcats and pumas comes when the cats eat animals that have consumed the rat poisons, which don't readily break down after being consumed. And since the poisons, applied as attractive baits, don't kill particularly quickly, a rodent or other animal might consume several times the amount of poison needed for a lethal dose before dying -- delivering that dose almost unimpaired to any animal that happens to eat it.

And as Griffith Park Connectivity Study wildlife biologist Miguel Ordeñana told KPCC's Kim, once you treat an animal for rodenticide poisoning there's no guarantee they won't go out and consume more.

"Even though he looks better and healthy looking compared to early on a couple months ago, it still doesn't mean he can't get it all over again," Ordeñana told KPCC. "It's still important for the future of P-22 and other wildlife that we stop putting these poisons out there."

But that's the bad news. Here's the good news from the Griffith Park Connectivity Study's trail cams, via KPCC's Vimeo account. First, a video taken shortly after P-22's veterinary encounter. He's still getting around, but he looks a patchy mess:

And again in late May, looking a lot better and with his fur grown back.

What's P-22 living on as he recovers? Another video from late May shows him taking an unfortunate raccoon out for dinner:

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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