The mountain lion who has attracted media attention for his forays from his habitat in urban Griffith Park in Los Angeles is soon to be captured.
National Wildlife Federation, California Regional Executive Director Beth Pratt issued a statement earlier this week explaining that P-22, the celebrity lion, has recently changed his behavior and will be captured and examined. A determination will then be made as to next steps.
P-22 has recently stepped up his presence in highly-populated areas outside of his Griffith Park domain. He has attacked two Chihuahua dogs, killing one, and authorities are concerned that things could escalate as he roams populated areas.
“P-22 has always been in an unprecedented situation,” said a statement from Pratt. “Never has a mountain lion lived in such an urban setting in one of the world’s most populated cities. He is also a remarkably old mountain lion, living well past the normal life expectancy of his kind, and may now be exhibiting signs of distress. Although he has always been impacted by the isolation the freeways caused him, as P-22 has aged, the challenges associated with living on an island of habitat seem to be increasing and the scientists are noting a recent change in his behavior.”
Pratt said mountain lion experts from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area National Park Service (NPS) plan to capture P-22. After a health evaluation, the veterinarians will determine next steps for him.
“The people involved in his capture and evaluation are some of the top wildlife biologists in the world who have studied P-22 and other mountain lions for decades. We trust them to make a good decision,” Pratt said.
She added a caution for the public not to attempt to help in the capture and evaluation.
P-22 has lived for more than a decade in Griffith Park, which is the largest urban park in the US. That has both helped and hindered him. While his survival hasn’t been challenged by a younger lion, as is usually the case in the wild, P-22 has been isolated by busy freeways that have no land barriers that would allow him to get to wider expanses.
“P-22 has given us so much,” Pratt said. “He is a beloved wild mountain lion that survived against all odds, and his plight of being trapped in Griffith Park after making a perilous journey across two of the busiest freeways in the country showed the world how harmful our roadways can be to mountain lions and all wildlife.”
The famed P-22 mountain lion (actually a male cougar), has been seen in heavily populated hipster haven Silver Lake, a residential and commercial section of Los Angeles. The area is highly urban and trafficked, and is located about a mile to a mile-and-a-half from P-22’s usual Griffith Park domain, where he generally sticks to the high mountain country and is rarely sighted by humans.
While the 12-year-old P-22 can be considered a dangerous wild animal, his celebrity status is unquestioned, and neighbors of the area report his sightings with something akin to glee. A National Geographic photo spread, led to a 2017 documentary, The Cat That Changed America, a museum exhibit, a children’s coloring book, and a mural in Watts, an area even further south in Los Angeles.