A young mountain lion was killed in late September after ingesting rat poison that came from a poison bait box, according to authorities with the National Park Service (NPS) at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA).
The mountain lion, P-34, was a 23-month-old female who was famously photographed by cameras in the Santa Monica Mountains at eight months old, together with her brother, P-32, and mother, P-19.
“If you’re a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains, this is just not an easy place to grow up,” Dr. Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for the National Park Service, said in a statement provided by the NPS. “From our roads to rat poisons to potentially increased interactions with other mountain lions, it is very difficult for young animals to make it to adulthood, establish their own home range and reproduce.”
P-32 was struck and killed by a vehicle earlier this summer while attempting to cross the 5 freeway in Castaic.
P-34 was found by a runner on a trail in Point Mugu State Park on Sept. 30, and the NPS announced its death on Oct. 9.
The NPS statement revealed that the cause of P-34’s death at Point Mugu State Park is thought to be rodenticide poisoning, a type of poison made famous in Malibu by grassroots group Poison Free Malibu. Poison Free Malibu has been making waves locally since it was founded nearly three years ago, and its outreach has helped change policy nationwide, according to co-founder Kian Schulman. However, Schulman said, it’s clear from the death of P-34 that the group’s work is far from over.
“We started Poison Free Malibu three years ago after I read in the newspaper P-25 was found dead in Point Mugu State Park,” Schulman said. “It’s a repetition of the same story.
“Why are we tolerating the poisonous point of view? I'm very upset this happened again, on my watch," Schulman added.
P-34 is the latest of several larger mammals found dead as a result of rodenticide poisoning in the SMMNRA, according to the NPS, with two other mountain lions and many coyotes falling prey to what Poison Free Malibu calls the “chain of death.”
As smaller rodents ingest poison and die, they are sometimes eaten by larger animals, such as coyotes and mountain lions, who then fall prey to the anticoagulant rodenticides found in the smaller rodents and birds.
“I think we need to work collectively to raise awareness so that people understand that when they utilize rat boxes, they understand what happens to the environment around them — to the habitat surrounding it,” another Poison Free Malibu founder, Wendi Dunn, said. “We are not separate from our environment — we are not ever. We are all part of the system.”
The fight to ban the rodenticides is one of “David and Goliath” proportions, according to Schulman, who said the next step in the group’s mission is amending the City of Malibu Local Coastal Program (LCP) to ban the use of bait boxes citywide.
“The next step, which is absolutely critical, is getting our LCP amended so that these poisons are banned from all of Malibu. Our attempt is, once we get this nailed down, we can offer this as a [template] to get these banned in all cities on the coast,” Shulman said.
Poison Free Malibu also has a roundtable meeting scheduled for next week to work with local elected officials on the state level in the hopes of banning the use of anticoagulant rodenticides among pest management companies throughout the state.
“It’s very important, this next meeting, that we’re aggressively going after the pest control people, because they are the offenders with these bait boxes everywhere,” Schulman said.
The NPS has monitored over 30 mountain lions in the SMMNRA since it began its program in 2002, though many of those lions have been killed by dangerous road crossings, other predators and poisons.
The SMMNRA is the largest urban national park in the United States. It encompasses more than 150,000 acres of coastal and mountainous land in both Los Angeles and Ventura counties.