THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA.com) — A mountain lion tracked by biologists with the National Park Service is fighting for his life Thursday evening.
The Griffith Park cat, known as P-22, tested positive last week for exposure to rat poison and scientists believe the animal developed deadly mange as a result.
P-22 was famously captured in December in an amazing photograph from National Geographic in front of the Hollywood sign.
Mange is a parasitic rare disease of the hair and skin but its direct link to the poison is unknown.
Officials told CBS2’s Greg Mills they believed P-22 may have been exposed to the rat poison after entering the lion’s food chain — P-22 attacked coyotes who apparently had eaten rats who ingested the poison.
Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the National Park Service, told Mills that 88 percent of all coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions tested, showed some exposure to rat poison.
He made a plea to people who have rat problems at home.
“Don’t use poison, period,” Sikich said.
“Only two other mountain lions in the 12-year study have developed mange, with both ultimately dying of rodenticide poisoning,” NPS spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall said.
The NPS study has also previously documented two mountain lion deaths as a result of rodent poisoning.
“When people put these bait traps outside their homes or businesses, they may not realize that the poison works its way up the food chain, becoming more lethal as the dose accumulates in larger animals,” said Dr. Seth Riley, an urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Officials say P-22 poses no safety threat. He has roamed the Santa Monica mountains for the past four years.