2015-10-02 / Front Page
Bobcat shows signs of rodenticide poisoning
Simi-based wildlife center treats sick wildlife
The wildcat, an adult male, was still in the coop at midmorning, John Zicari said.
His son, Ignatius, 7, recorded a video of the cat as it darted out of the cage and leaped over a 5-foot backyard fence. The boy’s twin sister, Bijou, said she saw the cat come back three times in the next several hours.
Concerned for the safety of his family and the bobcat’s wellbeing, Zicari called the Agoura Hills Animal Shelter, which told him to call Wildlife Care of SoCal for help.
Simi Valley-based Wildlife Care of SoCal rehabilitates all native wild animals with the exception of bears, deer and mountain lions. The group also seeks to educate the public on how to coexist with wildlife.
“It came back in the coop and we closed the door. It spent the night in (the coop),” he said.
Although sad that their pet hen was killed, Zicari said, he and his family don’t harbor bad feelings toward the bobcat.
“Even though it was frightened, it was still docile because it was sick,” he said.
Anna Marie Reams, director of the wildlife organization, came the following morning to get the animal.
Reams said healthy bobcats will not usually attack backyard pets, but sick ones will go after easy prey to survive.
The cat is being treated for mange—a skin disease caused by parasitic mites.
“The bobcat is doing really well at this point,” said Reams, who is caring for the cat at her house. “He eats about 3 pounds of food per day, including mice, rats, quail and chicken.”
Reams said the bobcat’s immunity had been weakened by exposure to rat poison.
Anticoagulants used in rat poison threaten all large carnivores in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.
Many predators are exposed to rat poison, and some die of internal bleeding due to repeated exposure.
The poison makes bobcats and other carnivores less able to resist disease.
Joanne Moriarty, a biologist and bobcat specialist with the National Park Service, said a majority of the small carnivores with mange that were tested in the Agoura and Thousand Oaks area have high levels of anticoagulants in the liver.
Although a law was passed to ban the sale of anticoagulants to individual consumers, the poison is still used by pest control companies.
A study conducted by the park service indicates that in 2002 there was an increase in the deaths of bobcats in the Santa Monica Mountains. The deaths were linked to new rat poisons that were longer lasting and more potent. The products were advertised as safe to use outside the home.
But rats aren’t the only victims of the poison they eat. As predators feed on poisoned rats, the larger animals are poisoned as well.
Between 2002 and 2008, an epidemic of mange killed about 75 percent of the local bobcat population. Five of the six bobcats tracked in the Oak Park area during that period died from mange, the NPS reported.
“We did see a rebound in the population after 2008, but we are still continuing to see animals die from mange and being exposed to anticoagulants,” Moriarty said.
Reams said mange by itself doesn’t kill healthy animals.
“The condition is easily treated if we get them in the early stages,” she said.
The bobcat captured in Agoura Hills will soon be released back into the area where it was found.
With the help of antibiotics and vitamins, the wildcat should gain weight and be free within a month, Reams said.
The animal would not have survived if it hadn’t been caught, she said.
“That’s typically the only time people will see a bobcat, is when they’re sick. Going into a chicken coop is a last resort because they’re so weakened,” she said.
Wildlife experts said there are natural, nontoxic alternatives to dealing with pests, such as rodentproofing buildings and food storage areas, and using wooden snap traps or electronic rat-zappers.
They also said alternative rodenticides such as zinc phosphide are a better choice than anticoagulant poisons, those with ingredients such as bromadiolone, difethialone or diphacinone.
The alternatives, while still toxic to other animals, are thought to have fewer long-term effects, according to the National Park Service.
The use of rodent bait boxes, which are used to keep the poison away from children, is discouraged by wildlife experts because the bait attracts more rodents.
Moriarty said residents should not handle sick or dead wild animals. She said residents should call animal control and notify the National Park Service to give biologists an opportunity to identify the cause of death.