SoCal’s celebrity cougar P-22 is getting another closeup because he hasn’t been playing well with others. As a result of a couple of attacks on pets, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service have captured him for evaluation.
While the 12-year-old cat has previously preyed on pets, and even a koala, California Director of the National Wildlife Foundation Beth Pratt says this new behavior is alarming.
“His movement patterns have changed,” Pratt notes. “He is now almost exclusively trying to prey on our dogs or smaller animals. … For 10 years, [he] stayed mostly within the wilds of Griffith Park … so this is a pretty radical change rapidly in his behavior.”
For Pratt and other wildlife biologists, such a dramatic shift points to “some sort of distress. Whether that's old age, whether that's mange, whether that's something else going on with him, that's why they want[ed] to capture and examine him.”
While P-22 wears a tracking collar, capturing him wasn’t easy. The collar only pings once a day and every hour at night, so biologists didn’t know his real-time location.
Relying on what geographic information they had, biologists and government officials tracked him to a backyard in Los Feliz. Sarah Picchi owns the house where P-22 was found and recalls what happened.
“I heard my intercom from my gate go off. … And the person said … ‘There's a lion in your backyard.’ And so I immediately knew it was P-22 because I've been following the story just like every other Angeleno.”
After she answered the door, a squad of six entered Picchi’s backyard and got to work. She describes watching the events unfold.
“We heard the tranquilizer gun go off, and then we heard them say get the tarp out. … And they carried P-22 on a tarp through our side yard, and they put him in our driveway to do some initial testing on him.”
P-22 was then taken to a facility to be further assessed. According to Pratt, “It does look like he may have been hit by a car … but I feel confident he is getting the best care he can, and we’re just gonna have to wait and see what the assessment means.”
In light of P-22’s recent behavior, the recent capture of another mountain lion in Brentwood, and a coyote attack on a young girl in Woodland Hills, Pratt commends LA residents for learning to live with wildlife and setting a “coexistence ethic.”
Despite the occasional risks posed by wild animals, Pratt notes that we live with much greater risks on a daily basis. “If you look at the number of wild animal attacks, and we can just look at mountain lions in 100 years, with 40 million people in California, we have had 20 attacks. Six of those have been fatal. … Every year, we lose about 4000 people from cars in California. So we live with risk every day.”
Even considering the complications, Pratt notes that many people enjoy sharing our habitat with native animals.
“I think that's what most of us in California want: the wildlife around us.”