P-22 was the world-famous mountain lion who lived in Griffith Park, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He was catapulted to stardom when Steve Winter, a renowned wildlife photographer, used camera traps to capture an image of P-22 in front of the Hollywood sign.
The fact that a mountain lion, an unmistakable symbol of “wildness,” could live in a mega-city like L.A. captivated the minds of conservationists, celebrities, public officials, and the general public.
P-22’s presence in “our” landscape seemed to challenge the nature vs. civilization dichotomy. That he could reside in L.A. for so long, with minimal conflicts, seemed to indicate that it was possible for humans to coexist with species that have historically been feared.
Perhaps most importantly, P-22 became a tangible example of an abstract problem: habitat fragmentation. He and other mountain lions were effectively trapped in pockets of green space around L.A., prevented from entering larger tracts of territory by ever-busy highways. People rallied around P-22, and years of campaigning (with P-22 literally serving as the poster boy) have led to the construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing.
Unfortunately, California officials noticed recent changes in P-22’s behavior that seemed to indicate that he was struggling. They captured him, and found that he had severe health problems. Some of these issues were pre-existing, including kidney disease, while others were likely the result of being hit by a car.
In short, P-22 was no longer able to survive in the wild.
P-22 was doomed to spend the rest of his life in pain. Thus, California officials decided that the most humane option was to euthanize him.
While P-22’s death is tragic, the story of his life is nothing short of remarkable. Few other wild animals have so profoundly impacted the course of history as this single, extraordinary cat. P-22 couldn’t possibly be aware of his legacy, but simply by existing in the “wrong” place, he was able to improve the future for the rest of his species in L.A., and possibly for urban wildlife in general.
For more information about P-22’s passing, please read the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s press release. I’ve also embedded a eulogy to P-22 below from Beth Pratt, who was the main champion behind the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing.