Recent trail camera footage of "P-22," the mountain lion living in Griffith Park, shows signs his health has made marked improvement since he was treated for mange.
"His face has improved. His fur is filled in; the crustiness over his eyes has gone. The lesions on his face, neck area and ears from scratching so much due to the dehydration of his skin has kind of improved," said Miguel Ordeñana, a wildlife biologist with the Griffith Park Connectivity Study.
Earlier this year, scientists were concerned when images from trail cameras showed the male mountain lion appeared to be suffering an infestation of mites that cause mange. It's a type of skin disease that can lead to hair loss and infections.
In late March, the rangers successfully captured and confirmed the presence of mange. They treated the puma for the disease and rodenticide poisoning.
Scientists with the Griffith Park Connectivity Study captured video of P-22 shortly after treatment. In the video, the lion's fur appears matted and clumped, though he appears to be moving well.
Footage taken last week at the same location shows the treatment appears to be working: P-22's fur has visibly improved.
However, Ordeñana said that the lion's tail, which stores fat and is an indicator of health, remains thin.
"His tail has been, basically the last thing, it seems, to recuperate," Ordeñana said. "So it shows that he still has some recovering to do, but overall, he's definitely improved significantly in health."
In 2012, the Griffith Park Connectivity Study captured the first photographic proof that a mountain lion had taken up residence inside the park. Both recent videos represent the first footage of the lion taken during daylight hours. Ordeñana said that made it easier to gauge P-22's recovery.
Mange has been devastating to local bobcat and coyote populations, but it's impacts on mountain lions isn't well known. Despite P-22's previous bedraggled appearance, National Park Service rangers — who captured the lion and continue to monitor his movements through a GPS collar — had been encouraged by signs the mountain lion continued to hunt successfully.
"His GPS locations continue to show a healthy range of movement and a desire to stick to the most natural areas of the park, so this new daytime video is one more piece of the picture," said Kate Kuykendall, spokeswoman for the National Park Service at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
That ability to find food has continued unabated. Another video taken last week shows P-22 carrying the carcass of a raccoon.
When he was captured in March, P-22 was tested positive for signs of rodenticide poisoning. Rodenticides can travel up the food chain and collect in top predators. Scientists suspect that the presence of the chemicals can make bobcats and pumas more susceptible to mange.
Starting in July, regular consumers will no longer be able to purchase some of the more powerful rodenticides in California. Last week, Reckitt Benckiser, which owns the d-CON line of rodenticides, said it would stop making many of the products.
Those chemicals were not the ones detected in P-22's blood. Ordeñana said homeowners need to be aware of the dangers such products can pose to wildlife such as mountain lion P-22.
"Even though he looks better and healthy looking compared to early on a couple months ago, it still doesn't mean he can't get it all over again," Ordeñana said. "It's still important for the future of P-22 and other wildlife that we stop putting these poisons out there."
Kuykendall shares Ordeñana's concern.
"Although we're seeing some encouraging signs, the sobering part of this story is that nothing in P-22's environment has changed -- there's no reason to believe he isn't at risk for another run-in with either rat poison or mange," Kuykendall said.