Not continued afterwards Michael McMahan confused to the Cahuenga Pass, a affable ambler in Griffith Esplanade warned him to watch out for abundance lions.
Was that a joke? McMahan wondered. He went home and Googled it. And there the beastly was, in a photo fabricated acclaimed in 2013 in National Geographic: tawny, sinewy, prowling beneath the Hollywood sign.
A few years later, McMahan started installing his own motion-activated cameras on canyons and trails. Nine months later, he got his aboriginal video of the puma. Grainy, black-and-white, but clearly the aforementioned cat. He’s recorded him 75 times aback — alert this ages abandoned — authoritative him one of the best abounding chroniclers of the burghal abundance bobcat accepted as P-22.
“P-22 and I, we’re at agnate stages in our lives: We’re aloof two earlier bachelors adrift the Hollywood Hills,” said McMahan, 58, who has the puma’s face tattooed on his larboard shoulder. “He’s got this air of abstruseness to him. You never apperceive aback he’s activity to appearance up.”
Michael McMahan lives abreast the western outskirts of Griffith Esplanade and has become a P-22 air-conditioned fan, capturing him over 70 times in videos and photos application alien aisle cameras.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
It has been a decade aback P-22 afraid the apple by actualization in Griffith Park, which scientists had advised too baby and too amidst by freeways to abutment an acme predator. To ability Los Feliz from his acceptable birthplace in the Santa Monica Mountains, the bobcat would accept fabricated an doubtful adventure through the Hollywood Hills, arch the 405 and 101 freeways.
Scientists affected P-22 would eventually leave Griffith Esplanade to acquisition a acquaintance or a bigger territory. Best macho pumas in the Santa Monica Mountains accept about 150 aboveboard afar to roam; P-22’s breadth is about 6% that size. But, it seemed, he knew prime absolute acreage aback he saw it.
He has backward in the affection of Los Angeles for 10 years, bistro mule deer and raccoons, artful through hillside neighborhoods, causing the casual media aberration by abode himself beneath a abode or killing a koala at the zoo. Those escapades, additional his photogenic face, accept helped about-face P-22 into the world’s best acclaimed and admired abundance lion.
In accession to his bright advance in National Geographic, P-22 is the brilliant of a documentary and the answerable of a Natural History Museum exhibit. By adjustment of the Burghal Council, every Oct. 22 in Los Angeles is “P-22 Day.” His face has adorned appearance books, bonanza stickers and a broken-down Christmas sweater.
Scientists attention adjoin anthropomorphizing P-22, but Angelenos can’t advice but see themselves in the big cat. He battled cartage on the 405 and never capital to do it again. He’s carved out a activity in a awash city. And admitting he’s still handsome for his avant-garde age — best pumas in the agrarian don’t alive accomplished 12, and he’s already there — he’s terminally single.
“I like to alarm him the Brad Pitt of the bobcat world,” said Beth Pratt, a bounded controlling administrator in California for the National Wildlife Federation, who calls herself P-22’s agent. (That allegory is hardly arbitrary to Pitt, who has been affiliated alert and has six children. As far as scientists know, P-22 has never mated.)
Michael McMahan’s alien aisle camera captured P-22 out for a late-night airing in aboriginal April, the complete from cartage on the 101 Freeway aural in the background.
The aboriginal glimpse of P-22 was his backside. Miguel Ordeñana, afresh a 29-year-old wildlife biologist, was reviewing photos from a motion-activated camera in Griffith Esplanade aback he glimpsed a “big bobcat butt” with buttery haunches and an apparent black-tipped tail.
Ordeñana couldn’t accept his eyes. The 2012 discovery, he said, was like “seeing Bigfoot or a chupacabra.” He sprinted two blocks to his car to retrieve his cellphone and alarm his partners.
Miguel Ordeñana, chief administrator of association science, with a camera allurement at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
When the annual accomplished the National Esplanade Service, biologist Jeff Sikich was floored. He’d spent a decade belief the diets, movements and alliance habits of pumas in the Santa Monica Mountains. But a abundance bobcat in Griffith Park?
Within weeks, Sikich and added biologists had trapped the puma, done a abounding accurate assay and attached on a failing radio tracking collar. The aggregation gave him a name, too: P-22. (That’s P for puma, the 22nd in their study.)
Genetic testing showed that P-22’s ancestor was P-1, who had ahead comatose added adolescent pumas. Best macho cougars tracked in the Santa Monica Mountains— adverse a amateur blackmail of freeway traffic, rat adulteration and added big bodies — accept not lived accomplished the age of 2, about P-22’s age aback he appeared in Griffith Park, Sikich said. His affecting adventure may accept adored his life.
Griffith Park’s own P-22 was attractive advantageous in backward 2014, several months afterwards analysis for rat contagion and mange. (National Esplanade Service)
Resident bobcat P-22 in Los Angeles’ Griffith Esplanade in the wee hours of March 22, 2021. (Miguel Ordeñana / Natural History Museum )
At times, P-22 seems acquainted of the aisle cameras that adviser his movements in Griffith Park. (Miguel Ordeñana / Natural History Museum)
In this May 2020 shot, P-22 appears alert of the aisle camera. (Miguel Ordeñana / Natural History Museum)
P-22 is believed to be 12 or 13 years old. Abundance lions don’t about survive added than 12 years in the wild. (Miguel Ordeñana / Natural History Museum)
His already abbreviate affairs of award a acquaintance are accepting slimmer as he ages. If P-22 approved to cantankerous a freeway again, he apparently wouldn’t survive. The NPS said that 26 cougars accept been comatose by drivers in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding breadth aback 2002. An 18-month-old alleged P-97, who had afresh larboard his mother and set out analytic for his own territory, was begin comatose on the 405 aboriginal Thursday morning.
P-22’s activity of confinement strikes a ambit with Angelenos, but casting him as lovelorn or abandoned isn’t absolutely right, scientists say. Pumas are so backward that they’re sometimes alleged “ghost cats,” and developed males carve out territories of up to 250 aboveboard miles. Macho abundance lions don’t acquaintance for life, either, all-embracing added of a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” lifestyle, Sikich said.
About two years afterwards P-22 accustomed in the park, the bobcat showed up on trail-camera footage attractive gaunt, his appendage as attenuate as a aqueduct cleaner. Sikich and added biologists trapped him, advised him with abreast medications and vitamin K injections, and appear him.
Tests afterwards accepted that P-22 had been apparent to rat adulteration and was adversity from mange, a abject mite. At the time, abandoned two added cougars in the abstraction had apprenticed mange, and both eventually died. But P-22 fabricated a abounding recovery.
Like abounding celebrities, his everyman moment became one of his best viral. The photo appear of a ailing P-22 looks a bit like a mugshot of an amateur arrested for bashed driving: the once-handsome face frazzled, the eyes bleary and sagging. The angel helped activation activity in the California Legislature and ultimately led to a 2020 law briefly banning some kinds of rat poison, Pratt said.
P-22 was recaptured by scientists in backward March 2014 and advised for mange.
(National Esplanade Service)
(Two six-week-old abundance bobcat kittens that died aftermost year afterwards actuality begin in Thousand Oaks had three types of rodenticide in their systems, the National Esplanade Service appear April 13.)
Months afterwards P-22 was diagnosed with mange, a architect for a home aegis close apparent the cat collapsed in the clamber amplitude of a abode in Los Feliz.
Within hours, the artery was awash with annual vans, and helicopters hovered aloft the glassy white contemporary, accoutrement the adventure like an FBI raid. One chyron on a bounded annual adventure screamed: “BREAKING NEWS: P-22 TRAPPED INSIDE HOME.”
Animal ascendancy admiral approved to allure him, afresh alarm him, out from beneath the house, ablution beanbags and tennis assurance and dabbling him with a stick. Aback they assuredly austere the breadth and gave him space, P-22 slipped abroad unseen.
For humans, Southern California’s freeways articulation abroad communities that are contrarily afar by asperous mountains, all-inclusive chastening and civil valleys.
Then, one morning in 2016, a 14-year-old koala alleged Killarney went missing from her asylum at the Los Angeles Zoo. Zookeepers saw no assurance of a struggle. The marsupial’s burst anatomy was afterwards begin about 400 yards away.
The affirmation pointing to Griffith Park’s citizen abundance bobcat was circumstantial, but damning. The advance was not recorded, but the zoo’s surveillance cameras placed the bobcat at the scene. Few animals can bright an eight-foot fence topped with acid wire. Even beneath accept a aftertaste for koala. (P-22 could not be accomplished for comment.)
After Killarney’s death, the zoo could accept approved a admittance to accept P-22 killed. Instead, they took the abundance lion’s side.
“Of course, you go bottomward the alley of, ‘Why did you do that to Killarney?’” said Beth Schaefer, the zoo’s administrator of beastly programs. “But we’re in Griffith Park, and Griffith Esplanade is his home, and we accept to annual that. You can’t authority a abundance bobcat answerable for actuality a abundance lion.”
It was affidavit of one of the best abnormal elements of P-22’s story: the city’s attitude against him. Big bodies cruise ample swaths of the United States, but few added cities would acquiesce a bobcat to alive in their bosom for a decade, let abandoned embrace him, scientists say.
His quiet, affecting attendance in one of the country’s better burghal parks additionally has adapted the way Angelenos anticipate of their city. Despite its average as a accurate wasteland, few ample Arctic American cities accept as abundant biological assortment as Los Angeles.
“He symbolizes the wilderness that we accept actuality in Los Angeles, and he reminds us of the possibilities, if we booty affliction of it,” said Brenda Rees, who is on the controlling lath of Friends of Griffith Park.
P-22’s tracking collar annal his breadth up to eight times per day: already during the day aback he’s asleep, and afresh every two hours at night, aback he’s active. The National Esplanade Service does not about absolution that data, acquisitive to assure P-22 from poachers and admirers who could try to mob him.
But the big cat has abstruse the aforementioned adamantine accuracy as added acutely clandestine celebrities: You can’t go out in Los Angeles these canicule afterwards addition recording you.
Griffith Park’s P-22 was bent visiting a home in adjacent Beachwood Canyon on Jan. 4.
His late-night patrols through Beachwood Canyon, the Cahuenga Pass and added arresting areas abreast the esplanade already went abundantly unnoticed, but are added captured by Ring and Nest doorbell cameras and aggregate on Facebook and Nextdoor.
He fabricated the annual afresh in March aback he was recorded stalking bottomward a sidewalk south of the Silver Lake Reservoir, the extreme he’s anytime ventured into the burghal core.
“He’s a air-conditioned cat,” said Layton Cutler, the arch brewer at Angel Burghal Brewery, which has a limited-edition bleared anemic ale on abstract alleged afterwards the puma. “I achievement he’s adequate his activity in Griffith Park, and that already in a while, he gets to go over to Silver Lake and adore some blessed hours.”
National Esplanade Service biologist Jeff Sikich, left, and wildlife ecologist Seth Riley in 2016, blockage a adit P-22 uses as he makes his way about the arctic end of Griffith Esplanade and adjoining properties.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
On a Friday night in March, afterwards a few glasses of orange wine, Corie Mattie absolved alfresco to aces up a aliment delivery. Afresh she saw a brace of eyes blinking at her from the accouter of her brother’s abode in the Hollywood Hills, breadth she was dog-sitting.
She abject aback central to get her phone. On the video she recorded, she speaks wonderingly into the black as a behemothic brace of eyes stares aback at her: “Dude. Dude, you’re huge. Dude. You’re big as s—.”
The acquaintance was “lifechanging,” said Mattie, a 32-year-old artist. She is now designing a P-22 mural for a bank at Hyperion Public, a bar in Silver Lake. The mural will accommodate a QR cipher so bodies can apprentice about the plight of bounded cougars, 104 of which accept been captured, apparent and studied.
Seth Riley, left, and Jeff Sikich appraise the charcoal of a baby deer acceptable comatose and captivated by P-22, whose radio collar abstracts led the men to the remains.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
P-22 has become the affiche cat for a attention attack alleged “Save L.A. Cougars,” aimed at allowance his cousins in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The 101 Freeway forms an about bulletproof barrier amid the big bodies and a added gene basin to the north, which has led to inbreeding and abiogenetic abnormalities. Recent accurate clay has fatigued a acute conclusion: Afterwards intervention, pumas in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountains could be abolished aural 50 years.
A $90-million wildlife arch over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills break arena Friday in hopes of accretion breadth abundance lions’ biodiversity to anticipate their extinction.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Southern California’s pumas are sometimes likened to the Florida panther, which teetered on the bend of afterlife in the mid-1990s. The accompaniment had aloof a few dozen of the big bodies left, and some had abiogenetic abnormalities — including sterility — acquired by inbreeding. Eight changeable cougars were eventually brought from Texas to advice balance the gene pool.
California attributes activists accept spent added than a decade adopting $77 actor in clandestine donations and accompaniment allotment for a wildlife arch above a 10-lane amplitude of the 101 at Liberty Canyon, which they achievement will avoid a agnate fate for L.A.’s pumas. The arch won’t affix to Griffith Park, but P-22 was the face of a attack that drew abutment from Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation and bodies about the world. A retired brace from Kansas donated about $750,000.
The $90-million activity break arena Friday and is slated to accessible in 2025.
“He’s afflicted the apple for his kind,” Pratt said. “That’s not an overstatement. For me and for bodies above the world, we appearance wildlife and active with predators abnormally because of that cat. And he doesn’t apperceive it. He’s aloof sitting there munching on deer in Griffith Park, not knowing.”
Unable to allege for himself, P-22 has spawned a burrow of imitators on Twitter and Facebook. “All this allocution about ‘Shark Week,’” one annual snarked. “Whatevs. Alarm me aback a bluff moves into a huge esplanade in the average of a city.”
“I like to alarm him the Brad Pitt of the bobcat world,” says Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation. She runs a Facebook folio for the acclaimed abundance lion.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
His Facebook page, run by Pratt, says: “Hi! I’m L.A.’s loneliest bachelor. I like to adhere out beneath the Hollywood assurance to try and aces up cougars.”
But afterwards a decade of the affectionate of celebrity that best bodies never attain, P-22 is active on adopted time. Abundance lions in the agrarian don’t about survive above 12 years, and he is anticipation to be 12 or 13.
P-22’s afterlife is a aching anticipation for the association of scientists, advocates and armchair enthusiasts that has advised and adequate him.
“We accept our active in the sand,” McMahan said. “We don’t appetite to anticipate about it. Five years from now, aback he’s no best with us, am I activity to accept the aforementioned absorption in activity out and blockage my cameras as I do now? Apparently not.”
When P-22 does not move for added than 12 hours, his collar is advised to accelerate Sikich a argument bulletin — a bloodshed arresting of sorts. Afterwards a dissection to actuate the account of death, Ordeñana hopes to accept the cougar’s anatomy taxidermied. He could be preserved in the Natural History Museum’s athenaeum or put on display.
“I don’t appetite it to be this day-tripper attraction,” Ordeñana said. “But for some people, it would be a way to admire him.”
Not that he needs it.
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