Two More LA Mountain Lions Have Died And Both Had Rat Poison In Their Systems

The body of mountain lion P-30 was found by NPS biologists on Sept. 9 after they received a mortality signal from the puma's radio collar. The 6-year-old male had been the first male cougar in the NPS' local study tagged as a kitten that was able to survive into adulthood. (Courtesy National Park Service)

Two mountain lions were found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains in recent months, marking the fifth and possibly sixth cougars in a National Park Service study to be killed by rat poison.

The bodies of P-53, a 4-year-old female lion, and P-30, a 6-year-old male, were recovered in August and September, respectively, NPS officials with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) said in a press release. Both had anticoagulant rodenticide, or rat poison, in their systems.

"Just about every mountain lion we've tested throughout our study has had exposure to these poisons, generally multiple compounds and often at high levels," said Seth Riley, ecologist and wildlife branch chief for SMMNRA. "A wide range of predators can be exposed to these toxicants — everything from hawks and owls to bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions."

P-30's body was found by NPS biologists on Sept. 9 after they received a mortality signal from the puma's radio collar.

A necropsy by the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory found that the male puma bled to death internally due to "severe hemorrhaging in his brain and abdominal cavity," NPS spokeswoman Ana Beatriz Cholo said. Five different anticoagulant rodenticides were found in his system.

P-30 was "one of the more notable mountain lions of the study," she added, because he was the first male lion biologists tagged as a kitten in his den that then went on to reach adulthood and establish his own range in the mountains.

Female mountain lion P-53 was found dead in August after being treated for mange in February. (Courtesy National Park Service)

Back in February, P-53 was recaptured by NPS biologists after researchers monitoring her on remote cameras saw signs she was suffering from mange. That diagnosis indicated that an animal may have ingested rat poison, Riley said at the time.

An official cause of death could not be determined for P-53 because of decomposition, but four different compounds found in rat poison were found in her liver.

The biggest threat to our local mountain lions is us. Vehicle strikes and anticoagulant poisoning are the leading human-caused deaths among cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains, NPS officials said.

There's also "intraspecific strife," or lions killing other lions, which Cholo said is now tied with being struck by cars as the leading cause of death. But that's believed to be more common because of urbanization — again, us. Our freeways and developments cut off mountain lions from new territory, leading to more conflicts with other big cats.

Park officials and a fundraising group launched an awareness campaign last year to educate the public about the threat to animals further up the food chain and inform residents about alternative pest control options.