write this eulogy while looking across one of the ten-lane freeways
P-22 somehow miraculously crossed in 2012, gazing at a view of his new
home, Griffith Park.
Burbank Peak and the other hills that mark the terminus of the Santa
Monica Mountains emerge from this urban island like sentinels making a
last stand against the second largest city in the country. The traffic
noise never ceases. Helicopters fly overhead.
The lights of the city give the sky no peace.
Yet a mountain lion lived here, right here in Los Angeles.
can’t finish this sentence without crying because of the past tense.
It’s hard to imagine I will be writing about P-22 in the past tense now.
and veterinarians with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
announced today they have made the difficult decision to end P-22’s
and help him transition peacefully to the next place. I hope his future
is filled with endless forests without a car or road in sight and where
deer are plentiful, and I hope he finally finds the mate that his
island existence denied him his entire life.
am so grateful I was given the opportunity to say goodbye to P-22.
Although I have advocated for his protection for a decade, we had never
met before. I sat
near him, looking into his eyes for a few minutes, and told him he was a
good boy. I told him how much I loved him. How much the world loved
him. And I told him I was so sorry that we did not make the world a
safer place for him. I apologized that despite
all I and others who cared for him did, we failed him.
don’t have any illusion that my presence or words comforted him. And I
left with a great sadness I will carry for the rest of my days.
I said goodbye, I sat in a conference room with team members from the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the team of doctors at
the San Diego
Zoo Safari Park. The showed me a video of P-22’s CT scan, images of the
results, and my despair grew as they outlined the list of serious
health issues they had uncovered from all their testing: stage two
kidney failure, a weight of 90 pounds!!! (he normally
weighs about 125), head and eye trauma, a hernia causing abdominal
organs to fill his chest cavity, an extensive case of demodex gatoi (a
parasitic skin infection likely transmitted from domestic cats), heart
disease, and more. The most severe injuries resulted
from him being hit by a car last week, and I thought of how terrible it
was that this cat, who had managed to evade cars for a decade, in his
weakened and desperate condition could not avoid the vehicle strike that
sealed his fate.
the agency folks and veterinarians relayed these sobering facts to me,
tissue boxes were passed around the table and there wasn’t a dry eye in
the house. This
team cares just as much for this cat as we all do. They did everything
they could for P-22 and deserve our gratitude.
I wished so desperately he could be returned to the wild, or live out
his days in a sanctuary, the decision to euthanize our beloved P-22 is
one. With these health issues, there could be no peaceful retirement,
only some managed care existence where we prolonged his suffering—not
for his benefit, but for ours.
of us who have pets know how it feels when we receive news from the
veterinarian that we don’t want to hear. As a lifelong dog and cat
owner, I have been
in this dreadful position too many times. The decision to let them go
is never easy, but we as humans have the ability, the responsibility,
and the selflessness to show mercy to end the suffering for these
beloved family members, a compassionate choice we
scarcely have for ourselves.
look at Griffith Park through the window again and feel the loss so
deeply. Whenever I hiked to the Hollywood sign, or strolled down a
street in Beachwood Canyon
to pick up a sandwich at The Oaks, or walked to my car after a concert
at the Greek Theater, the wondrous knowledge that I could encounter P-22
always propelled me into a joyous kind of awe. And I am not alone --
his legion of stans hoped for a sight of Hollywood’s
most beloved celebrity, the Brad Pitt of the cougar world, on their
walks or on their Ring cams, and when he made an appearance, the videos
usually went viral. In perhaps the most Hollywood of P-22’s moments,
human celebrity Alan Ruck, star of Succession,
once reported seeing P-22 from his deck, and shouting at him like a
devoted fan would.
will all be grappling with the loss of P-22 for some time, trying to
make sense of a Los Angeles without this magnificent wild creature. I
loved P-22 and hold
a deep respect for his intrepid spirit, charm, and just plain chutzpah.
We may never see another mountain lion stroll down Sunset Boulevard or
surprise customers outside the Los Feliz Trader Joe’s. But perhaps that
doesn’t matter—what matters is P-22 showed
us it’s possible.
changed us. He changed the way we look at LA. And his influencer
status extended around the world, as he inspired millions of people to
see wildlife as their
neighbors. He made us more human, made us connect more to that wild
place in ourselves. We are part of nature and he reminded us of that.
Even in the city that gave us Carmeggedon, where we thought wildness had
been banished a long time ago, P-22 reminded
us it’s still here.
legacy to us, and to his kind will never fade. He ensured a future for
the entire population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains by
to build the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which broke ground
never fully got to be a mountain lion. His whole life, he suffered the
consequences of trying to survive in unconnected space, right to the end
hit by a car led to his tragic end. He showed people around the world
that we need to ensure our roads, highways, and communities are better
and safer when people and wildlife can freely travel to find food,
shelter, and families. The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife
Crossing would not have been possible without P-22, but the most
fitting memorial to P-22 will be how we carry his story forward in the
work ahead. One crossing is not enough – we must build more, and we must
continue to invest in proactive efforts to protect
and conserve wildlife and the habitats they depend on—even in urban
journey to and life in Griffith Park was a miracle. It’s my hope that
future mountain lions will be able to walk in the steps of P-22 without
lives on California’s highways and streets. We owe it to P-22 to build
more crossings and connect the habitats where we live now.
you for the gift of knowing you, P-22. I’ll miss you forever. But I
will never stop working to honor your legacy, and although we failed
you, we can at least
partly atone by making the world safer for your kind.
California Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation