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Photos: Once-Majestic Griffith Park Mountain Lion Possibly Sickened With Rat Poison

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When a National Geographic photographer took stunning photos of a Griffith Park mountain lion walking in front of the Hollywood sign last year, the animal looked majestic and healthy. However, researchers announced today that the cougar is now sick with mange and may have become ill from rat poison.

"You can see on his face that he’s sort of scraggly, and his whiskers are sort of scraggly, and his tail is pretty scrawny," Seth Riley, a researcher with the National Park Service (NPS) told KPCC.

Researchers discovered in March that the cougar, otherwise known as P-22, suffered from mange, a parasitic disease of the hair and skin, according to a press release from the NPS. They caught P-22 to replace the battery in his GPS collar and noticed his mange. After doing tests on the feline, they found traces of rat poison (AKA anti-coagulant rodenticides) in his blood.

"Anti-coagulant rodenticides are designed to kill rodents by thinning the blood and preventing clotting,” said Dr. Seth Riley, an urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “When people put these bait traps outside their homes or businesses, they may not realize that the poison works its way up the food chain, becoming more lethal as the dose accumulates in larger animals."

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Biologists are still trying to figure out the connection between rat poison and getting mange in animals. NPS said that it's pretty rare for wild cats to even develop mange and they only found two cases in the past 12 years with it; however, those two cougars ended up dying from rat poisoning.

They've treated P-22 with selamectin, a topical treatment, and although they hope the treatment works, they don't know if he'll ever fully recover. The cougar is back out in Griffith Park and isn't expected to pose any threat.

More information on how rat poison works up the food chain can be found here.

Photo: Hollywood Cougar Ready For Her Close-Up