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Mange, poisons and wildlife

Posted on Apr 18, 2014

Early yesterday afternoon I posted an article on our Facebook page titled, “Household rat poison linked to death and disease in wildlife” from the Los Angeles Times. It discussed the following:

The mountain lion known as P-22 looked majestic just a few months ago, in a trail-camera photo shot against the backdrop of the Hollywood sign. But when a remote camera in Griffith Park captured an image of the puma more recently, it showed a thinner and mangy animal. Scientists sedated him and drew blood samples. They found evidence of exposure to rat poisons. Now, researchers say they suspect a link between the poisons and the mange, a parasitic skin disease that causes crusting and skin lesions and has contributed to the deaths of scores of bobcats and coyotes.

Of course we also know these poisons and others impact high numbers of birds as well. Carnivores of many species are susceptible to this in urban and suburban areas with the article noting, “the poisons also affect protected or endangered species including golden eagles, northern spotted owls and San Joaquin kit foxes,” among others. The high percentage of mammals testing positive for these poisons shows us how sizable a problem this remains even in 2014.

Mere hours later I met up with this Coyote in Connecticut as it scratched itself.

Coyote mange itch

I have seen individuals with mange before and some more sickly than this one. They’ll often come out into the open in broad daylight in search of easy to find food such as trash or whatever is left at bird feeders.

Coyote mange stare

In this case it was still in decent health and rather skittish, running off a few moments later.

The article explains:

Mange is caused by a microscopic mite that burrows into the skin and causes itchiness and skin lesions. The afflicted animal loses fluids and nutrients through the skin. Complications including infection, starvation and hypothermia eventually lead to death. The connection between exposure to anticoagulant rodenticide and mange is not fully understood, said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

That poor Coyote probably has a painful and short future ahead. I hope it keeps to itself and does not interact with too many people or pets in this suburban neighborhood during its demise. I do not know for certain why it ended up sickly but we should all be aware of the chemicals and poisons we are putting into our environment in all forms and the direct repercussions our actions have.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch