SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — A test reveals a female bobcat originally reported as road kill near the UC Santa Cruz campus is the third cat to die from rat poison in four months.

The most recent bobcat was found dead on Dec. 4 on the side of Empire Grade Road — the same area where four months earlier, a second cat was killed by a car. Both bobcats were already bleeding internally by the time they were hit, according to Department of Fish and Wildlife senior environmental scientist Stella McMillin.

The first cat, an adult female, was found collapsed on Sept. 3 in the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum with her kitten nearby.

All three cats died from rat poison toxicity, said McMillin who oversaw the testing. Compared to the other two cats, the third cat’s body had three times the amount of brodifacoum, an extremely lethal active ingredient commonly found in rodent poisons.

In an effort to protect wild predators like bobcats and mountain lions, California banned the public sale of brodifacoum last July, along with other anticoagulant rat poisons. Farmers and professional landscapers still have access to the poison for rodent control.

All three bobcats also had lower doses of bromadiolone, a poison now restricted under new state rules, and diphacinone, which is still available on store shelves.

Predators indirectly consume anticoagulant poisons when eating rats and other rodents that continue to run around as they die a slow death after eating the poison.

“This is not an uncommon problem,” McMillin said. “The poisons [the bobcats] consumed were most likely not misused. But they’re hard to control and use safely.”

Wildlife deaths by anticoagulant poisons has been a state-wide problem for the last 20 years. McMillin said she expects there will be less deaths as the regulations improve use of these substances.

All three bobcats were found near the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, but McMillan said the arboretum only uses non-toxic rodent control methods.

But it’s likely there’s a single source nearby. McMillin said the Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to investigate where it’s coming from while educating residents who hire landscapers or professional rodent exterminators to be aware of the poisons used on their property.

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