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Climate and Environment

P-22 Is The 'Old Man' Of LA's Mountain Lions. What's Next After His Capture?

A big cat has a visible collar on its neck in a night shot
P-22 photographed in November 2014 in Griffith Park. The big cat was captured Monday in a backyard.
Courtesy National Parks Service via Flickr)
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While the future of P-22 is uncertain following his capture in a Loz Feliz backyard Monday, wildlife experts say his prognosis is not great.

Listen: A Conversation about P-22's capture and future

A health report on P-22 issued Tuesday by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that the famed Griffith Park mountain lion, captured yesterday in a Los Feliz backyard by state and federal wildlife officers, is severely underweight and shows trauma on his face, suggesting that he’d been recently by hit by a car or truck.

It's unlikely that P-22 will be released back into the wild. Even worse, wildlife experts say the big cat might have to be put down, depending on further medical tests.

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The Backstory

P-22 was tranquilized and captured by wildlife authorities in the Los Feliz area on Monday . In recent weeks, officials said the big cat may have been showing signs of distress: traveling closer to human homes near his Griffith Park habitat, killing a leashed pet and attacking another.

"His behavior has radically changed very quickly," Beth Pratt, National Wildlife Federation California Executive Director told our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk. "He's an old man... because he's trapped he's out of options and that's what we're going to look at."

P-22's Health

The cougar is in stable condition and it looks like he has a “small case of mange,” a sign of possible rat poison exposure, Pratt said. (P-22 has survived previous rodenticide exposures.) Additionally, officials will be conducting internal scans on P-22 due to reports of him being hit by a car.

Pratt said P-22 is "well past the age of any mountain lion we've ever seen." He was initially captured and tracked in 2012. At that time he was estimated to be 3 years old.

How He's Lived This Long

Pratt said one factor for P-22's long life is how isolated he has been in the Griffith Park area. She said big cats in the wild typically live no more than 10 years.

L.A.’s urban sprawl has kept him for isolated from other cougars for a decade. That also means he hasn't had to face young males that might contest him for territory. Pratt noted: “P-22 wouldn’t win that fight.”

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As an “old man,” in the cougar world, Pratt said he would not fare well if he was released into an area with cougars.

Bringing P-22 to a sanctuary or “even building him something bigger” than the standard, multi-acre sanctuary, is the goal, Pratt said.

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Updated December 13, 2022 at 6:47 PM PST
This story was updated to include the latest results from medical exams conducted on P-22.