DOA—A Newbury Park resident found the body of a mountain lion next to a fence in his yard. The carcass is being examined for cause of death. Courtesy of Robert Wachbrit
Mountain lions dead from a variety of causes have been found in the woods, hills and freeways throughout the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountains. Rarely is a deceased cougar found in a resident’s backyard.
Robert Wachbrit, a resident of Dos Vientos in Newbury Park, saw a mountain lion on the ground just beyond a fence in his yard on the morning of June 7. He watched to see if it was still breathing, and soon realized the big cat was dead.
Little is known about the animal, including its age and genealogy. The cougar was not wearing a tracking collar and was not part of the National Park Service study that follows mountain lions in the local hills.
Wachbrit told the Acorn it was his first mountain lion sighting ever, and said he was sad that it had to be deceased. Social media lit up when the picture of the cougar lying on the ground by the fence was posted a few days later.
Wachbrit put out immediate calls and said National Park Service biologists were quick to respond.
“The woman who did the work was very informative,” he said. “The technician answered all my questions, let me hang out, showed me the ticks on the mountain lion’s body. We went looking for tracks, she let me help with everything except putting it in a body bag.”
Ana Beatriz Cholo, a spokesperson for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said the park service is examining the body to determine the official cause of death—including whether there is the presence of anticoagulant rodenticide in the animal’s blood.
Wachbrit said NPS officials told him a preliminary investigation suggested kidney failure, which would be consistent with poisoning.
There’s a push in the region to ban the use of rodent poisons due to their unintended effect on local wildlife. Biologists say the poisons travel up the food chain—rats that ingest it are eaten by predators that absorb the poison and over time become poisoned themselves.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports anticoagulants “pose greater risks to non-target species that might . . . feed on animals that have eaten the bait.”
Two animals, a female bobcat and a male cougar, were found dead of rodenticide poisoning last year.
It was the first time in the 24- year history of the park service’s animal tracking program that a bobcat had been found dead of rodenticide poisoning.
The cougar P-76 was the sixth collared mountain lion in the study to die of rodenticide poisoning and the third in the last two years.
Park service researchers have detected the presence of anticoagulant compounds in 26 of 27 mountain lions they tested, including a 3-month-old kitten.
Environmentalists and animal activists lauded the signing of the California Ecosystems Protection Act last year. The law bans most California businesses from using second-generation rodenticides (which have already been banned from stores). The ban does not, however, apply to Amgen and its sprawling Newbury Park campus, which borders 3,200 acres of open space that serve as a wildlife corridor for large mammals.
The exemption, which Amgen argued is necessary to satisfy Food and Drug Administration safety and sanitation requirements for its drug testing and manufacturing operations, landed the county’s largest private employer in the crosshairs of cougar advocates. News of the young puma found dead at Wachbrit’s fence line won’t help.
Amgen maintains it is continuing to pilot emerging pest-control technologies in the hope of identifying an alternative.
“We know this is something we ultimately have to figure out a solution on,” Government Affairs Director Matthew Welsh said in a December interview over Zoom.
Welsh said employees at Amgen’s headquarters have provided “internal pressure” to end the use of rodenticides.
Thousand Oaks Acorn editor Kyle Jorrey contributed to this article.