For a decade, he was perhaps the craziest and most elusive resident of Los Angeles. So when news broke Saturday that the P-22 puma was gone, his town swelled with sadness and awe.
A congressman called him a “beloved mascot”. The biologist who helped identify him dubbed him “the iconic wildlife ambassador.” An ordinary citizen tweeted that the mesmerizing-eyed 12-year-old bachelor had clearly been “the coolest cat in LA”.
The city’s lion king had been slowed down by a series of ailments and likely been hit by a car in recent weeks, a situation that has led to increasingly precarious interactions with humans and their pets. before being trapped on Monday by wildlife officials. They euthanized him Saturday morning.
“Although I so desperately wished that he could be returned to the wild or live out his days in a sanctuary, the decision to euthanize our beloved P-22 is the right one,” wrote Beth Pratt, an official with the National Wildlife Federation which had become one. of the cougar’s most outspoken defenders. “With these health issues, there could be no peaceful retirement, only a managed care existence where we prolonged his suffering – not for his benefit but for ours.”
Governor Gavin Newsom, whose father was a founder of the Mountain Lion Foundation and an advocate for the protection of the species, said in a statement that the survival of P-22 “on a wild island in the heart of Los Angeles has captivated people around the world and revitalized efforts to protect our diverse native species and ecosystems.
The governor noted that P-22’s predicament — isolated by highways in the relatively cramped surroundings around Griffith Park — helped galvanize state officials to try to keep other creatures from being cornered. by man-made obstacles. The result will be the world’s largest “wildlife overpass,” being built on Highway 101 near Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills, to provide safe passage for cougars and other wildlife.
As messages of sadness came from across the city and around the world, to people who frequented Griffith Park, the nine-square-mile urban oasis where the puma made its first appearance in 2012, the loss of P-22 was particularly respondent.
“We loved it,” said Wayne V., a jazz musician and regular hiker in the park, who preferred not to give his last name. “It wasn’t just him, but the idea that he was here. We will miss it. Bless his heart.
Joan Fradkin, a consultant on conservation issues who lived near Beachwood Canyon before moving to Santa Barbara, said the P-22 saga should remind humans of the value of coexistence with their fellow human beings.
“The lesson I would take away is to learn to live side by side with the creatures that have been there before you and are now here with you,” Fradkin said. “After all, they were here first. And we are now in their space.
Luis Caballero from Montebello cycled through the park with his Pomeranian-Shih Tzu mix, Rex, in his backpack. He recalls attending the park’s fourth annual P-22 Day festival in October (“Peace. Love. P-22,” according to posters) to promote efforts to protect endangered species in the south from California.
Caballero said his dog was spooked by the life-size posters of P-22. While Caballero, who works for a kombucha maker, was saddened by the death, he feared the puma would have met a more inhuman end if the recent attacks on pets had reached humans.
“So it’s difficult,” Caballero said. “But right now it’s probably for the best.”
Biologists believe the P-22 entered the park in February 2012, after traveling about 20 miles from further west in the Santa Monica Mountains. A wildlife survey in the park, using remote cameras, captured an obscure image of the mountain lion shortly afterwards. P-22 was then about 2 years old.
This caught the attention of Steve Winter, renowned for photographing big cats in jungles and savannahs around the world. Winter became possessed with the idea of portraying the plight of an urban cat by capturing his image at night against a backdrop of city lights.
Winter and his crew set up multiple cameras, remotely triggered by infrared beams and secured in locked steel boxes. It took 11 months to take a picture of P-22. The photo shows the puma, standing hearty and majestic atop a patch of brown dirt that appears to float above the lights of LA. The photo was published in October 2013 on Page 1 of The Times, making the puma famous. Another winter photo, taken four months later with the illuminated Hollywood sign as a backdrop, cemented the mystique of P-22.
On Saturday, Winter was fielding calls from the media and still marveling at a project he called “a miracle from the very beginning.”
“He’s gone now, but his spirit hasn’t gone at all,” said Winter, who spoke to The Times from his home in Hoboken, NJ. He suggested the charismatic cat would inspire more wildlife corridors and the preservation of open spaces.
“The most fitting memorial for P-22 will be to carry forward its history,” he said, “so the cougars can bounce back and thrive.”
Los Angeles Times