Glendale switches rat poisons to reduce risk to urban wildlife

Scientists recaptured P-22 in late March and, after finding crusting on his fur and skin, treated him for mange.
Scientists recaptured P-22 in late March and, after finding crusting on his fur and skin, treated him for mange.
(National Park Service)

Months after a photo showed a once-majestic looking mountain lion ravaged by a case of mange in Griffith Park, adjacent Glendale is ditching the kind of rat poison linked to the famous cat’s condition.

The mountain lion, known as P-22, gained widespread attention earlier this year when a trail-camera photo shot against the backdrop of the Hollywood sign revealed a 4-year-old, 125-pound cougar that had made the urban park its home.

A few months later, another remote camera in the park captured an image of a thinner, mangy P-22. Scientists who sedated him and drew blood samples found evidence of exposure to rat poisons.

Researchers suspect the poisons are linked to mange, a parasitic skin disease that causes crusting and skin lesions that afflicts scores of wildlife.


The condition of P-22 intensified the debate over the use of rat poisons in urban areas frequented by wildlife -- an interface Glendale is all too familiar with. Multiple mountain lion sightings have been reported in the hills around the city over the years, as well as bobcats, coyotes and other animals that researchers say can fall ill when poison meant to kill mice and rats travels up the food chain.

“The target of these poisons is not to kill the mountain lions and the owls and all of these other predators out there, it’s just to target the rats that can spread in the parks,” Glendale Councilwoman Laura Friedman said at a Tuesday council meeting

The new poison Glendale plans to use, Fastrac, is a safer alternative because it poses less of a threat to wildlife that eat poisoned rats or mice compared with the previously-used Contrac Super Size Blox, according to a city report.

Contrac causes rodents to bleed to death, said Community Services & Parks Director Jess Duran, while Fastrac attacks the rodent’s nervous system. Rodents also need to eat less of it to die, which means the predator that consumes it also ingests less of the toxin.

Fastrac costs almost four times more than the old poison, but even then, the city is only expected to spend $1,433 over three years, the Glendale News-Press reported.

Los Angeles City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge, meanwhile, have asked the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks to report on the use of poisons to control rodents.

Levine is a staff writer for Times Community News.

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