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Proc Biol Sci. 2018 Jan 31;285(1871). pii: 20172533. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2533.

Urbanization and anticoagulant poisons promote immune dysfunction in bobcats.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa, Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA.
Department of Biology, Duke University, Box 90338, Durham, NC, USA.
UCLA AIDS Institute and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, National Park Service, 401 West Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, USA.
Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia.
Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
Departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Understanding how human activities influence immune response to environmental stressors can support biodiversity conservation across increasingly urbanizing landscapes. We studied a bobcat (Lynx rufus) population in urban southern California that experienced a rapid population decline from 2002-2005 due to notoedric mange. Because anticoagulant rodenticide (AR) exposure was an underlying complication in mange deaths, we aimed to understand sublethal contributions of urbanization and ARs on 65 biochemical markers of immune and organ function. Variance in immunological variables was primarily associated with AR exposure and secondarily with urbanization. Use of urban habitat and AR exposure has pervasive, complex and predictable effects on biochemical markers of immune and organ function in free-ranging bobcats that include impacts on neutrophil, lymphocyte and cytokine populations, total bilirubin and phosphorus. We find evidence of both inflammatory response and immune suppression associated with urban land use and rat poison exposure that could influence susceptibility to opportunistic infections. Consequently, AR exposure may influence mortality and has population-level effects, as previous work in the focal population has revealed substantial mortality caused by mange infection. The secondary effects of anticoagulant exposure may be a worldwide, largely unrecognized problem affecting a variety of vertebrate species in human-dominated environments.


Lynx rufus; anticoagulant rodenticide; bobcat; immune suppression; inflammation; urbanization

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