Who is P-22? Probably the most famous cougar outside (perhaps) of Pete Puma. That Warner Bros. character had trouble with Bugs Bunny. But Pete is probably a distant second.
Sadly, time may be catching up to the famous cat whose photos near the Hollywood Sign brought him international recognition.
He was captured December 12 in the afternoon in the backyard of a home in Los Feliz, according to NBC news. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service (NPS) cooperated in the effort. The two agencies work together in a number of instances, such as the rescue of two abandoned cougar kittens in Thousand Oaks. The surviving kittens were eventually housed in the Orange County Zoo. The zoo was constructing a new large mammal habitat when the kittens were abandoned or orphaned and took them in for the exhibit.
P-22 is collared and thus can be tracked and it is pretty clear he has attacked two dogs while they were being walked. One dog survived. But this marked a change in his behavior – he was eating deer and coyote- and may signal serious disease, officials fear. So he has been tranquilized and brought in for veterinary examination. The worry is that since he is about 12 – two years beyond the expected life span in the wild – he may be in some serious physical distress. This in turn may cause him to seek prey perceived as easier to kill such as small pets.
Officials have not said what the options are after capture and evaluation. They acknowledged the need for balancing the interests of the wild animal and the safety and well-being of the community. Sometimes that means euthanizing the animal in question. It may be possible, depending on his health, to relocate him to a sanctuary. That remains to be seen. Perhaps he can return to his home.
His exploits, beyond simply living a long life in the wild, are numerous. He crossed freeways successfully and made himself something of a local celebrity prowling hilly suburbs. His exploits, and the difficulties he faces, helped create a movement to save the local pumas (mountain lion and cougar are other names for Puma concolor) from inbreeding and extinction. He has even had his own “day” in Los Angeles.
A number of conservation agencies including The Audobon Society mark the day as a milestone in efforts to make cities friendlier to wildlife.
NBC quoted a joint statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service:
“In a joint statement, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service said the cat was successfully tranquilized and taken to a “wild animal care facility for a full health evaluation.”
“After an initial assessment by qualified veterinarians, the lion was deemed to be in stable condition and is undergoing additional veterinary evaluation,” according to the agencies. “
According to the agencies:
“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.”
P-22 made headlines in recent weeks for apparent attacks on a pair of dogs. The cat was blamed for killing a leashed dog in the Hollywood Hills and attacking another a week ago in the Silver Lake area.”
The NPS has been studying cougars in local mountains for about 20 years. A growing interest in the study and a fascination with P-22 himself helped create a movement which has resulted in the ongoing construction of a freeway overcrossing in Liberty Canyon.