He was a handsome, mysterious, Hollywood recluse who kept mostly to himself except sometimes at night, when Ring alerts would warn that he was lurking in driveways. He was a loner by force, maybe by choice. He was a bit of a bad boy, probably dining on koala at the Los Angeles Zoo one night, definitely making off with a pet chihuahua recently. P22, the world’s most famous mountain lion, was a magnificent animal. When I heard that he had been euthanized today, I wept.
I wrote about my lifelong infatuation with panthers a couple years ago for LMU Magazine. P22 was the poster boy for the endangered Santa Monica Mountains population. He was the rare Hollywood political beast who effected real change: The saga of his voyage to and isolated plight in Griffith Park captivated people around the globe. Because of him, and the tireless advocacy of people like Beth Pratt at Save LA Cougars and biologists Jeff Sikich and Seth Riley, the world’s biggest wildlife crossing is currently being built across Highway 101. It will hopefully not only prevent animals from being hit as they cross this dangerous roadway; most importantly, it will offer a connection between the animals that are stranded on the west side of the 101 — and are facing extinction through in-breeding — with the larger, healthier population to the north and east.
Pratt wrote a moving eulogy to the animal she dubbed “the Brad Pitt of the cougar world”; you can read it here. As she says, P22 taught us how wild animals and humans can coexist — until he was hit by a car, that is. Injuries sustained from that and a series of other ailments forced his caretakers to make the heartbreaking decision to put him down. He lived an unusually long life for a puma: 12 years. But that he lost his life in part because of a moving vehicle is especially tragic — and so LA.
Hopefully his heritage will not just be his individual fame, but a recognition of the magnificence of all these American felines — and of their vulnerability. Goodbye P22. Pass gently over the rainbow bridge, and apologize to the koala and chihuahua!