Since 1996, scientists at the National Park Service (NPS) have been studying carnivores in the Santa Monica Mountains. The good news is that local carnivores are breeding. The bad news is that local carnivore populations are plummeting due to traffic collisions, lack of wildlife corridors, and fatal cases of mange that may be linked to ingesting prey that have eaten anti-coagulant rodent poisons.
Mountain Lions are the charismatic megafauna of the Santa Monica Mountains. NPS research proves that deer are 97% of their prey. A female lion typically has a range of 100 square miles while a male requires double that at 200 square miles. The total estimated population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains is under two dozen. Allowing our mountain lions, especially the young males, access to Simi Valley, Ventura, and beyond is crucial to maintaining genetic diversity and the longevity of the species as a whole. Mountain lion attacks on people are incredibly rare; there are only two documented fatal cases in the past 15 years.
Bobcats have distinctively tufted dark ears, dusky blond or brown fur and are the size of a medium-ranged dog. While shy, they are active during the daytime, which means people sometimes see them trotting by. Fond of rabbits and a variety of smaller prey, they are solitary as adults. There are no documented cases of bobcat attacks on people. They too have been hit by fatal cases of mange that may be linked to ingesting anti-coagulant rodent poisons. In one year of Dr. Seth Riley’s study, one out of four bobcats was killed by cars. This is a higher rate than their reproduction rate.
Coyotes prefer to prey on cotton-tailed rabbits; and with the advent of suburban lawns, our bunny population has sky-rocketed. They do, however, occasionally eat cats and small dogs, so keep pets indoors or on leashes. Coyotes hunt in packs and communicate many things with their distinctive howls. When hiking, a handful of rocks can help chase off any coyotes that appear threatening. Coyote populations are also experiencing fatal cases of mange that may be linked to anti-coagulant rodent poisons. The City of Calabasas has developed a guide to Living with Coyotes in the City.
Ban on Anti-Coagulant Rodent Poisons
Malibu, Calabasas, Los Angeles County, and the California Coastal Commission have written legislation encouraging the elimination or banning anti-coagulant rodenticide sales from local stores. Poison Free Malibu, a nonprofit created by local activists, has made significant strides to raise awareness and eliminate the use of these poisons by residents and businesses in the Santa Monica Mountains. The problem of secondhand wildlife death will remain until pest control companies join the environmental movement towards alternative pest management. Rodenticides can kill smaller carnovore species outright when they eat poisoned rats; medium to larger carnivores are weakened and succumb to mange which often kills them. Ultimately, the US EPA will need to address this issue on a national scale.