California Celebrity Mountain Lion P-22 Is Euthanized

The famous big cat suffered from serious injuries and chronic diseases.

p-22 mountain lion in front of Hollywood sign
P-22 in front of the Hollywood sign.

Steve Winter / courtesy of Vital Impacts

Famous California mountain lion P-22, who has roamed a Los Angeles city park and nearby hillsides for more than a decade, was euthanized by authorities this weekend due to serious health concerns.

The well-known big cat had severe injuries and several chronic health problems. Tests at the San Diego Zoo showed serious trauma to P-22’s head, right eye, and internal shoulders. The injuries were likely caused by a recent collision with a car, officials said.

The zoo’s medical team also discovered a number of significant illnesses, including kidney disease, continued weight loss, arthritis, and an extensive parasite-related skin infection. The combination of the trauma and chronic diseases led to the deterioration of the mountain lion’s health.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made the decision to euthanize the mountain lion on Saturday after the results of the medical evaluation.

“P-22’s advanced age, combined with chronic, debilitating, life-shortening conditions and the clear need for extensive long-term veterinary intervention left P-22 with no hope for a positive outcome,” CDFW said in a statement. “His poor condition indicated that he may also have had additional underlying conditions not yet fully characterized by diagnostics.”

Becoming a Celebrity

Mountain lion P-22 first caught the public’s eye a decade ago when he was photographed on a trail camera in Griffith Park, a large urban park in the center of Los Angeles. He was snapped as part of a study exploring the connectivity between the park and the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.

The photo proved that a mountain lion was living in the park, one of the largest urban parks in the county. He was captured by biologists and given a tracking collar. His name is a “P” for puma and he was the 22nd animal observed in the study.

P-22 became famous as he was frequently spotted strolling in the area. Videos of the famous feline went viral and National Geographic photographer Steve Winter took a much-circulated image of the cat walking underneath the famous Hollywood sign.

(Prints of the famous photo are available through the nonprofit photography group Vital Impacts to benefit Big Cat Voices, a nonprofit focusing on the issues facing big cats.)

He was on the cover of the Los Angeles Times not long after he was discovered and became “a sort of ambassador for urban wildlife,” according to the National Park Service. He has a Facebook page with 22,000 followers.

But the news wasn’t always good. He was suspected of killing a couple of Chihuahuas as well as a koala at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Eulogies to a Famed Big Cat

“People just fell in love with P-22, they were excited that such a wild creature could be living so close to us,” said Friends of Griffith Park president Gerry Hans, in a statement. “But that’s what P-22 offered. He came to represent the wilderness that still exists in Griffith Park and how wild animals can co-exist with human beings in an urban setting. He taught us that wildlife, even top predators, have their place in nature, even alongside the people of this large city.”

Because the mountain lion had made an impressive 50-mile journey to the park from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, he became the face of a campaign to build a wildlife crossing across the 101 freeway in Los Angeles to offer big cats, deer, coyotes, and other wildlife a safe path to the mountains.

“Twenty years of research shows that the biggest conservation challenge facing the wildlife of the Santa Monica Mountains is isolation by roads and development. This forward-looking project will help to end the isolation and reconnect natural habitat,” said David Szymanski, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Community and wildlife leaders weighed in with thoughts on the end of the mountain lion’s life.

“This really hurts and I know that. It’s been an incredibly difficult several days,” Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Los Angeles Times. “And for myself I’ve felt the entire weight of the city of Los Angeles.”

“He changed us. He changed the way we look at LA. And his influencer status extended around the world, as he inspired millions of people to see wildlife as their neighbors,” said Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, in an emotional statement that was a eulogy to the famous cat.

“He made us more human, made us connect more to that wild place in ourselves. We are part of nature and he reminded us of that.” 

View Article Sources
  1. "Mountain Lion P-22 Compassionately Euthanized Following Complete Health Evaluation Results." California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

  2. Friends of Griffith Park media release

  3. "Puma Profiles." National Park Service.

  4. "Puma Profiles: P-022." National Park Service.

  5. Friends of Griffith Park

  6. "A Eulogy for P-22, A Mountain Lion Who Changed the World." National Wildlife Federation.