P-22, L.A.’s Beloved Hometown Cougar, Has Been Euthanized

Wildlife officials said mountain lion P-22, who made his home in Griffith Park, had suffered too many injuries to carry on

The mountain lion known as P-22, who made his home in Griffith Park and whose free spirit as he journeyed far and wide around Los Angeles made him a mascot and an inspiration in L.A. and perhaps the world, was euthanized on Saturday.

It was hoped that the 12 year-old cougar—who was captured in a Los Feliz backyard on Monday after attacking a chihuahua—could be sent to an animal sanctuary, but the experts charged with his care concluded after examining the cat that sanctuary was not the humane option, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement Saturday.

“After receiving a comprehensive medical evaluation, CDFW has received a clear picture of the mountain lion P-22’s medical condition and overall health,” the department said. “He had several severe injuries and chronic health problems. Based on these factors, compassionate euthanasia under general anesthesia was unanimously recommended by the medical team at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.”

P- (for Puma) 22 was more lone wolf than any canine, and his medical evaluation offered a glimpse into the big cat’s hard scrabble life, revealing “significant trauma to the mountain lion’s head, right eye and internal organs, confirming the suspicion of recent injury, such as a vehicle strike,” CDFW states. “The trauma to his internal organs would require invasive surgical repair.”

Even before the suspected car strike, P-22 suffered “significant pre-existing illnesses, including irreversible kidney disease, chronic weight loss, extensive parasitic skin infection over his entire body and localized arthritis, all of which have led to the unfortunate deterioration in P-22’s overall condition.”

Officials are not seeking the driver of the car in that possible hit-and-run, explaining that it was no one’s fault. Rather, the accident was “an eventuality that arises from habitat loss and fragmentation, and it underscores the need for thoughtful construction of wildlife crossings and well-planned spaces that provide wild animals room to roam.”

The department continued, “Mountain lion P-22 has had an extraordinary life and captured the hearts of the people of Los Angeles and beyond. The most difficult, but compassionate choice was to respectfully minimize his suffering and stress by humanely ending his journey.”

Governor Gavin Newsom shared his condolences in a press release. “P-22’s survival on an island of wilderness in the heart of Los Angeles captivated people around the world and revitalized efforts to protect our diverse native species and ecosystems,” he said. “The iconic mountain lion’s incredible journey helped inspire a new era of conserving and reconnecting nature, including through the world’s largest wildlife overpass in Liberty Canyon.”

Calling P-22 “an iconic ambassador for wildlife in Los Angeles,” the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles also lamented the great panther’s passing in a statement. “On behalf of everyone at NHMLAC, we are very saddened by the loss of P-22. His passing is a painful moment, but we are so thankful for how he created a better understanding of the coexistence of urban wildlife, humans and L.A.’s biodiversity,” the museum said. “His story is a catalyst for change, inspiring conservation efforts, including the 101 freeway wildlife crossing and much more. Even in his death, P-22 continues to inspire L.A. to embrace urban wildlife conservation and the nature that surrounds us. NHMLAC will continue to share his story, and honor and preserve his legacy for generations to come.”

The Los Angeles Zoo, where P-22 had been treated before being transferred to San Diego, paid its respects on Twitter.

As did many others.

“This has been a difficult journey for all of us,” the CDFW said. “None more so than the dedicated staff who have been caring for him over this week, the biologists who have studied his incredible life, and the many compassionate individuals who have been his neighbors and followed his travails.”

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