Bright Lights Big Cat

When Mountain Lion P-22, also known as the Hollywood Hills Cougar, wandered into the Los Feliz Hills area of Los Angeles sometime on Monday to take refuge in the crawl space of a house, the home owners weren’t the only ones who got a surprise. P-22 was made famous when his photo was featured on the cover of National Geographic after camera traps set up LA’s Griffith Park captured a stunning image of him at night, with the glowing Hollywood Hills sign in the background.

Steve Winter, Cougars, Mountain Lions, Hollywood Hills cougar, North America's Big Cat, National Geographic photographer, Wildlife Photography, LA's elusive wildlife, Urban Wildlife

The story of P-22 touched many and put a spotlight on wildlife forced to live in close proximity to humans, with nowhere to go these animals are often under pressure to learn to adapt to an ever diminishing natural environment. Photo – Steve Winter

It had been determined through genetic testing that P-22 was related to Mountain Lions from the Santa Monica Mountains, and that he had left home in search of new territory crossing at least two of the busiest freeways in the US to get to Griffith Park where he now resides. That he was able to navigate through a maze of human development unseen and survive the freeway crossings makes him one very lucky cat.

Bright Lights, Big Cat  – P-22 captured by camera trap with the glowing city lights of Los Angeles behind him

Steve Winter, Cougars, Mountain Lions, Hollywood Hills cougar, North America's Big Cat, National Geographic photographer, Wildlife Photography, LA's elusive wildlife, Urban Wildlife, Save LA Cougars, Wildlife Crossings, Wildlife crossing in California, Highway 101, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, P-22,

Photo – Steve Winter

Having overcome one major hurdle he faced another  last year when he was found suffering from a severe case of mange and exposure to rat poison, which is proven to be deadly to wildlife. The rat poison is also what made him susceptible to mange, but luckily P-22 responded to treatment and photos taken later that year showed he was doing well.

Cougars are extremely secretive choosing to avoid people and, P-22 had done a pretty good job at remaining elusive. However on Monday that all changed when he was discovered under the LA home. According to the LA TimesSurveillance camera video and data from P-22’s GPS tracking collar show that the Los Feliz neighborhood has also been a regular hangout… California Department of Fish and Wildlife speculated that P-22 might have been regularly using the crawl space of the house, which has frequently been vacant.”

Steve Winter, Cougars, Mountain Lions, Hollywood Hills cougar, North America's Big Cat, National Geographic photographer, Wildlife Photography, LA's elusive wildlife, Urban Wildlife, Save LA Cougars, Wildlife Crossings, Wildlife crossing in California, Highway 101, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, P-22, LA Times

Sorry P-22 your hideout has been discovered – Image the LA Times

Workers installing a security system in the house discovered the cat and told the owners who called Animal Services. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was notified and they tried to figure a way to get the cat to come out. That’s when things got crazy.

Reporters flocked to the site and helicopters hovered and, if you didn’t know any better you would have thought you tuned into the latest paparazzi chase for some big Hollywood star.  At this point I was hoping for a happy ending where P-22 did not become a victim of an overzealous media.

Using tranquilizers was not an option because they could not get a clear shot, so instead officers opted for other non-lethal methods which included launching bean bags and tennis balls at the cat. However, nothing they did seemed to work and it was clear that P-22 was not going to come out.

For the video of the NBC local news report click here

Cougars, Mountain Lions, Hollywood Hills cougar, North America's Big Cat,  LA's elusive wildlife, Urban Wildlife, Save LA Cougars, Wildlife Crossings, Wildlife crossing in California, Highway 101, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, P-22, NBC LA new report

Featured on local news report – P-22 a victim of the paparazzi

Unfortunately the harassment was kept up for a while, but finally common sense seem to prevail and they stopped trying to force him out, everyone finally backed off.

At some point later when all the commotion had died down P-22 slipped out unseen, just as stealthily as he had come. It was reported on Tuesday morning that the 6-year-old Mountain Lion had left the building and was tracked, by his radio collar, back safely in Griffith Park somewhere. One day P-22 will likely leave Griffith Park again and when he does I hope he is given the respect and space he deserves.

Steve Winter, Cougars, Mountain Lions, Hollywood Hills cougar, North America's Big Cat, National Geographic photographer, Wildlife Photography, LA's elusive wildlife, Urban Wildlife, Save LA Cougars, Wildlife Crossings, Wildlife crossing in California, Highway 101, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, P-22, LA Times, National Wildlife Federation, California

P-22 and his story has come to represent the crises facing urban wildlife. He is also at the heart of the Save LA Cougars campaign which aims to help Mountain Lions and other wildlife by building a wildlife crossing to connect habitat needed for their survival.

 

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