Los Angeles’s unofficial mascot, a wild cougar who roams the famed Griffith Park, is in danger of losing his life after officials discovered that he killed a pet dog and wounded another.
P-22, named for his tag number given when wildlife experts captured and released him a decade ago, has peacefully coexisted with his ritzy Hollywood Hills neighbors for most of his 12 years. The community proudly wears T-shirts, displays posters, and contributes to countless documentaries produced in the handsome feline’s honor.
“This is an unprecedented situation in which a mountain lion has continued to survive in such an urban setting,” the state wrote in a press release. “As P-22 has aged, however, the challenges associated with living on an island of habitat seem to be increasing and scientists are noting a recent change in his behavior. This underscores the consequences of a lack of habitat connectivity for mountain lions and all wildlife.”
The cougar’s habitat was once the expansive Santa Monica Mountains, but it’s been cut off from the rest of the range after Los Angeles built a series of freeways. P-22 survived the odds by crossing traffic in a 40-mile trek to Griffith Park, where he has led a solitary life without a mate.
To remedy this problem in the future, construction on a $90 million wildlife crossing that would span freeways and connect the two areas began in April. It is a world first.
P-22’s journey has not been shared by most. Southern California’s cougars have shortened lifespans because of attempts to traverse the landscape. P-23, a 5-year-old female, was photographed leaping across a roadway, only to later be found dead near Malibu after being hit by a car.
Until now, P-22 has not been found to be aggressive. But lately, he has been seen in the vicinity of homes and businesses as shown on video or by human encounters. The state believes it has proof that P-22 was responsible for killing a Chihuahua on a leash last month and attacking another Chihuahua last week.
“P-22 is a remarkably old cat in the wild and, after being deemed responsible for killing a leashed pet last month, may be exhibiting signs of distress,” the press release said.
After his evaluation, state officials and the National Park Service “will determine the best next steps for the animal while also prioritizing the safety of the surrounding communities.”