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In Brief

Rat Poison Harms Famous California Cougar

Mountain lion P-22 in late March.
Mountain lion P-22 in late March. (Image credit: National Park Service)

A California mountain lion known for a famous photo beneath the Hollywood sign is now suffering from mange after ingesting rat poison, the National Park Service said.

In December 2013, the then healthy male cougar, known as P-22, was featured in a National Geographic magazine photo spread. The 4-year-old cat was prowling the Santa Monica Mountains' chaparral-clad foothills and canyons, hunting mule deer and the occasional coyote, and photographer Steve Winter snapped P-22 crossing below the infamous white letters.

But just three months later, P-22 was thinner and mangy, with skin lesions and crusts, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday (April 16). Blood samples collected from P-22 in late March confirm the cougar was exposed to anti-coagulant rodenticide, or rat poison, park ranger Kate Kuykendall wrote on Facebook. The poison thins the blood and prevents clotting. Park Service biologists gave P-22 a shot of Vitamin K to counteract the poison's effects, along with a topical treatment for mange.

P-22 is part of an ongoing tracking study of mountain lions within the Santa Monica Mountains National Park. Two other mountain lions in the study have died from rodenticide poisoning, Kuykendall wrote. "We've found exposure to these poisons in 88 percent of the wildlife we've tested in and around the Santa Monica Mountains," she wrote.

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Becky Oskin
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.