P-65, a mountain lion who was part of a long-range study of the species in the Santa Monica Mountains, is the first to have died from complications of mange, National Park Service officials said Monday.
The puma was found dead on March 4 near a stream in the central Santa Monica Mountains. A full necropsy and testing at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab determined P-65 had been exposed to half a dozen anticoagulant and neurotoxic rat poisons.
P-65 was found extremely emaciated and suffering from a severe case of mange, which was evident by hair loss and skin encrustation on her face and head. Motoedric mange, the condition P-65 had, is a highly contagious skin disease caused by a mite parasite that can affect wild cats like bobcats and mountain lions, along with wild squirrels and rabbits.
Exposure to rat poisons appears to be making mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains more susceptible to contract mange.
“We’ve had several radio-collared mountain lions that have contracted mange in the past, although in previous cases we were able to treat them with a topical anti-parasitic medicine,” Jeff Sikich, lead researcher on the National Park Service’s mountain lion study, said in a statement. “All of these animals recovered from their mange disease as best as we could tell from remote camera photos or later examination. However, in P-65’s case, we did not know about her disease until after she died.”
One of those mountain lions that recovered from mange includes P-22, famous for being photographed against the Hollywood sign.
P-65 was believed to be about five years old. She was first captured and collared in March of 2018, and survived the devastating Woolsey Fire later that year. Her GPS locations told researchers her home range was entirely within the overall burn perimeter, but mostly kept to the southeast corner of the area where there were some large, unburned islands. She became the second collared female to cross the 101 Freeway in August of 2019, moving into the Simi Hills from the Liberty Canyon area of Agoura Hills, where the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is being built.
The mountain lion gave birth to a litter of three kittens in the summer of 2020. Even though two of her kittens, P-89 and P-90, were successfully treated for mange, they have since died after being struck by cars on Southern California roads.