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Why Angelenos Are Grieving P-22, Our Beloved Celebrity Cougar

A close up photo of mountain lion P-22 taken at night.
P-22 photographed in April 2019 when the cougar was re-captured to replace the battery in his GPS collar.
(Courtesy National Park Service)
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He was known as the “Ghost Cat”. The “Brad Pitt” of Lions. The Old Man (in the cougar world). Any news of him dominated the headlines. He was the subject of children’s books. And his likeness inspired art all over the city.

It’s rare that a wild creature captures our hearts the way P-22 did. As I’m sure you’ve probably seen, our favorite celebrity feline, the cat who survived a very long time and had his share of troubles, was put to sleep on Saturday. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to euthanize him after veterinarians noticed several injuries, including those that appeared to have come from a recent impact with a car.

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Grieving The Loss Of P-22

Angelenos everywhere responded to the news with heartache (more on that below) but I know some of you out there might be wondering…why does this one mountain lion matter so much to L.A.?

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My colleague Caitlin Hernández wrote about why P-22 was such a big deal and why those like Beth Pratt, the regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, took careful watch of the lion for a decade. Not only was P-22 THE one and only lion king of L.A., he was a symbol of why it’s so important to save and protect wildlife in our increasingly urban environment. His demise sadly underscores how vulnerable our city’s special natural ecosystem is.

My colleague Julia Paskin interviewed Beth Pratt and Miguel Ordeñana, a wildlife biologist and Senior Manager of Community Science at the Natural History Museum, to talk about the loss of the beloved cat. Pratt said she sat with him on Saturday and told him he was a good boy and that she loved him. She also wrote a eulogy for him. In her conversation with Julia, she told her that P-22 was the love of her life in some respects.

“He was the longest relationship I’ve had,” Pratt said. “I’ve been here with pets before, [but] I also didn’t have to be the public spokesperson for my pets. It’s been really hard trying to mourn and grieve, but also having to switch over to doing the job. It’s a profound loss.”

Miguel Ordeñana helped make P-22 the wildlife star he was after discovering him in 2012 using motion-activated cameras. He released this statement after the puma died:

“On behalf of everyone at NHMLAC, we are very saddened by the loss of P-22, an iconic ambassador for wildlife in Los Angeles,” Ordeñana 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.”

His story is a catalyst for change, inspiring conservation efforts... Even in his death, P-22 continues to inspire L.A.
— Miguel Ordeñana

He told Julia that P-22’s death is “...a lot of weight that’s not going to go anywhere for a long time. But I think for me to move forward is just kind of focusing on honoring his legacy.”

Not only did scientists grieve the loss of P-22, several Angelenos shared their grief on our newsroom's Facebook pages. Joe Webb posted: “This feels like losing a pet. I’m so glad he’s not suffering, but it’s heartbreaking.”

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

Adrienne Doyle said: “I’m sure it was a difficult decision to make, just as it is when we’ve had to make that decision for a pet. Sometimes, it’s the kindest thing that can be done, as hard as it is to do.”

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Nancy John said: “For an urban/suburban wanderer…He was a great connection to the wildlife that surrounds us. I hope the overpass they are building will allow them to pass freely without the danger of crossing a freeway. He was a true survivor and we learned a lot from him. RIP P-22.”

He is most famous for his incredible 50-mile journey through the Santa Monica Mountains all the way to Griffith Park. He was the only one of his kind there. He had so much of an impact on people that Griffith Park officials hosted a memorial hike in his honor Sunday evening. Pratt says her team will also hold a memorial at some point soon. Even though there is already a Natural History Museum exhibit dedicated to P-22, Ordeñana said the museum will create space for people to share their sentiments about the cougar to process their grief.

“Science is important,” Pratt said. “I'm a scientist, Miguel's a scientist, but what gets visionary wildlife crossings built is the imagination. And he did that. He captured our imagination and showed us what was possible.”P-22 will not benefit from the wildlife crossing that Pratt and Ordeñana talked about, but his fellow creatures roaming the Santa Monica Mountains will.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

More News

(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • ICYMI on Friday, Mayor Karen Bass signed an executive order to fast-track affordable housing projects in the city. Her goal is to get projects reviewed and approved within 60 days.Here’s what that means
  • Five weeks into a historically significant strike, the University of California and the union leaders representing academic workers reached a provisional labor agreement on Friday. This could bring better pay and benefits for teaching assistants and other academic workers. (Los Angeles Times
  • California air regulators now have a big, bold plan for pollution and it involves cutting planet-heating emissions. Their goal is to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half and to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. 
  • How are graduation rates reaching a record high along with chronic absenteeism in California? The pandemic’s overall shift in education has a lot to do with it. Read EdSource’s John Festerwald’s article for the skinny. 
  • Back when I was a kid, I had this cute, pink Lamb Chop toy that I took with me everywhere. Nowadays, kids can ask for approval to have a unicorn and get a license to have one in their own backyard. 
  • Attendance at movie theaters is taking a hit and it’s creating a heap of debt, but could James Cameron’s Avatar sequel save the industry in the fourth quarter? Let’s see what my colleague John Horn has to say about this.
  • Have you ever heard of No MSG Added? No, I’m not talking about the label on Ramen noodle packages. It’s an Asian American sketch comedy troupe in Orange County with members that include a radiologist, a statistician, a librarian and a school psychologist.
  • It’s that time of the year to start holiday shopping for the little ones. Here’s a pop quiz for you before you get started: What iconic toy has remained around $1 for more than 50 years? Even while inflation is kicking us in the butt right now, Hot Wheels continues to hold a rare place as one of the most affordable toys in the nation. 
  • Celebrate Hanukkah with a silent disco night or bring the kids to the latest installment of Disney on Ice. There’s an Atheist Holiday Christmas Spectacular on the calendar this week as well and so much more. You can check out all the weekly events around L.A. here.
  • *At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

(more news headlines here)

Wait... One More Thing!

The Top Three Tea-Sipping Trends

Crowd in white and blue sports jersey wave Argentinian flags
Argentina has won the World Cup 2022. Fans Rejoice.
(Agustin Fernandez

THREE — Starbucks Strike Wraps in LA

Baristas at four L.A. County Starbucks storeshave wrapped up a three-day strike that started on Friday, Dec. 16th. They want better staffing, pay and health benefits. It’s a part of a larger strike at 100 U.S. stores. Check out the #DoubleDownStike on Twitter for more.

TWO - The Misogynoir Plus More On Social Media Regarding Rapper Tory Lanez’s Trial

The Tory Lanez trial in L.A. has been blowing up the Twitterverse this past weekend. There’s been conversations about misogynoir and misogyny and the spread of false information from some blog sites. Some of the reporters who have been handling this story involving Meg Thee Stallion with care are Black women like Heran Mamo from Billboard, Gabriella Bulgarelli from NPR and Sidney Madden who is also from NPR. I’ve also been following LA Times’ journalist James Queally’s reporting on this story.

ONE - Argentina Wins The World Cup! 

Let’s put some respect on Lionel Messi’s name. On Sunday, he led his team into World Cup glory over France in an absolutely exhilarating game. They had the most penalties in a World Cup, according to The Athletic.

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