The puma named P-22 that roams Griffith Park and beyond was captured and treated recently by National Park Service wildlife biologists who found he has contracted the skin disease mange and has traces of toxins, believed to be from rat poison, in his blood. The biologists sedated P-22 and gave him injections of Vitamin K (to treat the poisoning) and a topical treatment for parasites, then released him again.
“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,” said Seth Riley, a researcher with the National Park Service as reported on Southern California Public Radio. “If you look at the pictures in the National Geographic from December, with the Hollywood Sign there, he looks like this sort of amazing animal in great shape, and he doesn’t look like that anymore.”
Mange, which also kills members of the coyote population that roam the Hancock Park area, comes from a tiny mite that causes skin lesions, loss of the animal’s fluids and nutrients, and ultimately infection, starvation and usually death. It is rare to find it in the wild cat population but has recently found to have been the source of death of several bobcats in Southern California.
Perhaps more significantly, P-22s blood was found to have traces of rat poison in his system. It’s believed to have traveled up the food chain to collect in top predators like the puma. Some rodenticide compounds may soon be regulated for limited sales, but the poisons found in P-22’s blood are not those that will be banned for consumer sales. The LA Times recently ran a great story on the problem of society’s use of rat poisons and local wildlife.
Both stories are well-worth a read if you’ve been following the tracks of our Griffith Park cougar along with the National Park Service over the past couple of years. Let’s hope we don’t lose our famous puma to the wilds of our human-poisoned environment, before the approximately 41 year old fellow finds a mate and lives out the nice long life he deserves.