Poisoned bobcat

...in our poisoned society.

Earlier today a woman told Evgenia that a cat or bobcat might be injured not far from our apartment. We got into the car to check it out and see if we could help. Turned out it was a bobcat cub, and it had already died. It was stiff and cold — probably poisoned by some rich asshole that lives in one of the mansions that are nestled up against Griffith Park in Los Feliz. It’s such a beautiful cat. And it probably died a slow, painful death.

As Evgenia was telling me, the problem is that local homeowners use poison to control rats and rodents. These poisons slowly kill these creatures by causing unstoppable internal bleeding. But they also travel up the food chain, crippling and killing mountain lions and bobcats and coyotes which can feed on the rodents. These poisons are spread so wide through the local ecosystem that nine out of ten mountain lions carry detectable amounts in their blood. “I would guillotine these people,” she said.

The Los Angeles Times:

The highly potent SGARs work by preventing clotting and causing rodents such as mice, rats, squirrels and gophers to die from internal bleeding.

The deaths can be slow, and the chemicals linger in the rodents’ bodies and can be passed on up the food chain to predators, scavengers and pets from the dead or dying rodents.

Wild animals killed include mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, golden eagles, great-horned owls, black bears, Pacific fishers, coyotes and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes, according to state regulators.

Last month, wildlife officials announced that an adult bobcat and a young mountain lion that were part of a study of big cats in the wilderness west of Los Angeles both died after ingesting rat poisons.

Consumer sales of SGARs were banned in 2014 and their use restricted to licensed exterminators. But the chemicals are still widely used commercially and in agriculture.

Supporters of the bill said stronger measures were needed because the 2014 restrictions haven’t reduced the impact on wildlife that play important roles as natural rodent predators.

A Department of Fish and Wildlife study found that from 2014 to 2018, the rodenticides were found in more than 90% of mountain lions tested, and in the majority of tested bobcats, Pacific fishers and northern spotted owls.

I looked it up and turns out that California banned the use these poisons just a few months ago. But like everything else in this neoliberal hellhole, the law left huge loopholes and all sorts of opportunities for abuse — I’m sure to meet the demands of various business groups that had lobbied against it.

But the bill permits the use of the poisons to protect public health, specifically naming rodent infestations that pose an urgent and “significant risk” to human health.

It also permits their use to protect water supplies; to eliminate non-native species that have invaded offshore islands; in food warehouses, slaughterhouses, canneries, breweries and wineries; and for certain other agricultural uses.

When I was a kid in Leningrad, I was very scared of bobcats. My brother and I once spent a weekend in a shanty cabin in the woods outside of Leningrad that belonged to a friend of ours — he lived downstairs in our apartment building and his dad was a police officer. The dad kept a bucket full of bullets in the shed and we had fun by building a bonfire, throwing bullets into it, and then running to take cover behind a tree while they exploded and whizzed by. One night before we went to sleep, our friend wanted to give little Yasha a big scare. So he told me how the forest was full of bobcats and that they were known to attack people while they slept at night. For years I was deadly terrified of these cats whenever I went into a forest, but I never did get a glimpse of any in the wild. So when I first saw this one, I was sure it was regular cat. But, no, Evgenia was right — it was a baby bobcat. The short tail and the oversized paws made that clear.

As sad as it is, this little bobcat’s death is really nothing in the big scheme our hyper-industrial civilization. Just another small reminder of our toxic and deadly and mindless world. We move fast and kill everything — including ourselves — without much of a thought. And we won’t stop doing it anytime soon. I’m convinced that it will take a fanatic religious mass movement to fight and reverse this core part of our culture — something like the Butlerian Jihad of Dune.

Anyway, I hope you’re all doing well during this strange and unreal second wave of COVID.

—Yasha Levine