A well-known mountain lion found dead in Southern California's Santa Monica Mountains in late September was killed by rat poison, the National Park Service has announced.
Known as P-34, the oft-photographed female, was found by a hiker in Point Mugu State Park with multiple compounds of anticoagulant rodenticide, a form of rat poison, according to laboratory tests. Park service biologists suspected the death to be caused by poison when she was found with blood running freely inside her body.
P-34 is the third Southern California mountain lion to die after ingesting rodenticides, and the first since 2004. Researchers suspect that the animal became poisoned after eating an another animal, like a ground squirrel, that had fed on the chemicals, or preying on a coyote that had eaten one.
“We hope that P-34’s death will continue to raise awareness about how anticoagulant rodenticides work their way up the food chain, often with deadly effects," said Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
In July 2014, California put a ban on retail sales of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. However, first-generation rodenticides are still available, and their second-generation kin continue to be available to certified users like exterminators.
Researchers estimate that between 10 and 15 pumas call the Santa Monica Mountains home. State officials hope to increase protection for these animals by building a $30 million, 200-foot wildlife crossing bridge across the 101 Freeway to allow safe passage to the Santa Susana Mountains.