P-22, the celebrity mountain lion of Los Angeles, has died

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Mountain lion P-22, who lived in the heart of Los Angeles for more than a decade and became the face of an international campaign to save California’s endangered cougar population, was “compassionately euthanized” Saturday morning due to injuries the cat likely sustained after being hit by a car. by a car this week and long-term health problems, officials said.

In a tearful press conference, doctors described a number of chronic illnesses that may have been responsible for the mountain lion’s unorthodox behavior in recent months, before announcing that P-22 had gone to sleep at about 9 a.m. Saturday.

“This really hurts and I know it. It’s been incredibly difficult for several days,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the California Dept. or Fish and Wildlife. “And for myself, I’ve felt the whole weight of the city of Los Angeles.”

The cat was captured in a backyard in Los Feliz earlier this week and had to be sedated and taken in for medical evaluation. Days before, conservationists said they had received an anonymous report that P-22 had been hit by a car.

“P-22 had a number of serious injuries and chronic health problems, his prognosis was considered poor,” Bonham said Saturday morning.

The cat suffered a skull fracture, an injury to his right eye, herniated organs and a ruptured diaphragm, according to Hendrik Nollens, vice president of wildlife health at the San Diego Zoo. In recent days, doctors also discovered that P-22 had stage 2 kidney failure, advanced kidney disease, advanced liver disease, and also suffered from a parasitic infection.

Bonham said conservationists began considering euthanasia Thursday evening.

“This morning was the most practical time for the procedure, knowing what arrangements had to be made,” Bonham said. “I will rest in the hope that maybe yesterday was his last best day, instead of continuing his situation and finally his last day was his worst day.”

P-22 was thought to be about 12 years old.

Wildlife biologists from the National Park Service and the state’s wildlife department caught the mountain lion in December after it began showing increasing “signs of fear,” including three attacks on dogs in a month and several near misses with people walking in Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

A series of health exams showed that P-22 was significantly underweight, with a thinning coat and damage to his right eye, possibly from being hit by a car. A local animal control department had received a call that a vehicle collision with a mountain lion had been reported, and the P-22’s radio collar placed it near the intersection where the crash was reported, officials said.

An outside camera captures P-22 passing a nighttime Hollywood sign in Griffith Park.

(Steve Winter/National Geographic)

The mountain lion was not healthy enough to be released back into Griffith Park, state conservationists said. Advocates, scientists and residents hoped that the beloved animal would be healthy enough to retire to a nature reserve.

P-22 surprised the world in 2012 when its furry hindquarters and black-tipped tail appeared in a photo taken by a motion-sensitive camera in Griffith Park. The adolescent cat had made an improbable journey to Griffith Park from his probable birthplace in the Santa Monica Mountains, through the Hollywood Hills and over the 405 and 101 freeways.

P-22 was first introduced to the world in a Los Angeles Times story. The big cat quickly became a bona fide celebrity, appearing in a glossy National Geographic film in which the mountain lion prowls the Hollywood sign at night, muscles wrinkling under his tawny fur.

Scientists assumed the apex predator would move on in search of a mate and more room to roam. Instead, the wayward cat stayed in Los Feliz for more than 10 years, feasting on mule deer and raccoons and occasionally appearing on video doorbell cameras on quiet, hilly streets near the park. The cat lived alone and, to the best of scientists’ knowledge, never mated.

Catching a glimpse of P-22 on a nighttime hunt became one of the most coveted celebrity sightings in Los Angeles.

Like many cougars, sometimes referred to as “ghost cats,” P-22 was shy by nature. For years, he preferred the park’s dark ravines and hills—and sometimes a dark city sidewalk—to populated areas. But he had recently begun venturing deeper into LA, roaming as far south as Silver Lake and staying in residential areas for extended periods of time.

Those outings coincided with an increase in confrontations with humans, including the attacking of three dogs in the space of a month, and chasing a man and his dog down a flight of stairs to their home in Silver Lake, conservationists said.

The discovery of P-22 in the park in 2012 led to one of the most unusual elements of his life: the city sided with him, rather than demanding his removal. Big cats prowl large swaths of the United States, but few cities allow a cougar to live in their midst, let alone stay there for a decade.

Many Angelenos saw themselves in P-22, an aging bachelor who had adjusted to a cramped space in the big city, waiting for a partner who might never come. Others identified with his story, crossing borders and highways in search of a place to call home.

“Crossing the border, being persecuted in some parts of the country — people feel connected to that,” Miguel Ordeñana, the scientist who first discovered P-22, said in a 2022 interview.

P-22 achieved the kind of lasting fame most Angelenos can only dream of. His photogenic face, including dark marks around the eyes that resembled eyeliner, appeared in a documentary and an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The big cat was on socks, tattoos and bumper stickers. And by order of the City Council, every October 22 was celebrated as “P-22 Day”.

The presence of P-22 in Griffith Park was a reminder that Los Angeles is much wilder than it appears, with one of the highest levels of biological diversity of any major city in North America. The big cat’s isolation in the park, surrounded by highways, helped it become the poster cat for the conservation campaign called “Save LA Cougars.”

On Saturday, Bonham noted that the P-22 is an environmental icon and said he hoped the cat’s death would remind Angelenos and developers that the city’s residents need to find better ways to coexist with nature.

“I know this morning you feel like you’ve lost your king, but he will never, ever be forgotten…we put him in this predicament because of our built environment,” Bonham said. “We can fix this. We need everyone to stand up… to restore that built environment so that these majestic animals have the freedom to roam.”

Highway 101 forms a nearly impenetrable barrier to the endangered cougar population in the Santa Monica Mountains, cutting them off from a larger gene pool to the north. That has led to inbreeding that has caused genetic abnormalities and can lead to infertility.

Recent scientific models have reached a bleak conclusion: without intervention, cougars in the mountains of Santa Monica and Santa Ana could be extinct within 50 years.

California wildlife activists have spent more than a decade raising $77 million in private donations and state funding for a wildlife bridge spanning a 10-lane stretch of the 101 in Agoura Hills, which they hope will broaden the breed’s gene pool. The plight of P-22, alone in a small area surrounded by highways, drew support from around the world, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s charitable foundation.

The state broke ground on the Nature Bridge in April. Its presence, proponents say, may be the P-22’s most enduring contribution.

“His story of being isolated and trapped is what really made people realize why such a crossing was necessary, more than any scientific paper,” said Beth Pratt, a California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, who called herself P. -22’s agent. “He changed the world for his kind.”

Pumas are so reclusive that they are sometimes referred to as “ghost cats,” and P-22 often went days without being noticed. But there were also high-profile hijinks.

About two years after arriving at the park, P-22 appeared on CCTV looking gaunt, his tail as thin as a pipe cleaner. The NPS trapped him and treated him with topical drugs and vitamin K injections, then released him.

Tests later confirmed that P-22 had been exposed to rat poison and was suffering from scabies, a parasitic mite. The photo released of the big cat while sick went viral, showing the once handsome face looking disheveled, eyes drooping.

The image helped spur action in the California legislature, eventually leading to a 2020 law temporarily banning certain types of rat poison.

A few months later, a security company contractor found the cat in a crawl space under a house in the hills of Los Feliz. Soon, helicopters were hovering over the street, capturing the incident as if it were an FBI raid. A local news station added a caption that screamed, “BREAKING NEWS: P-22 TRAPPED INSIDE HOME.”

When officials finally cleared the area, P-22 slipped back to Griffith Park undetected.

In 2016, P-22 became the prime suspect in the death of a 14-year-old koala named Killarney, whose mutilated body was found about 400 meters away from her enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo. The attack was not recorded, but the zoo’s surveillance cameras placed the cougar at the scene. Few animals can easily jump over an eight-foot barbed wire fence.

After the attack, a city councilman suggested moving P-22 to a new habitat, saying that Griffith Park “wasn’t ultimately right for him.” But where the cougar could go hindered the discussion. Moving P-22 into a mountainous area already occupied by another mountain lion can be a death sentence, as the big cats kill to protect their territory.

However, the zoo sided with the P-22. The zoo’s director of animal programs later told a Times reporter, “We’re in Griffith Park, and Griffith Park is his home, and we have to respect that. You cannot hold a mountain lion responsible because he is a mountain lion.”

A memorial service for the big cat will be held after Christmas, although specific plans have not been released. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Pratt said she would gather with mourners at Griffith Park on Saturday.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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