Our beloved P-22 has been laid to rest in the
Santa Monica Mountains, a collaboration between local Indigenous
partners, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the National Park Service. The
burial location will not be revealed to protect and preserve the site.
I was honored to be invited to attend by our
Indigenous partners and full of so much gratitude to them for their
beautiful and moving ceremony that showed such reverence and respect for
this remarkable animal. The affecting songs and tributes helped me
achieve some measure of peace, although I struggled the entire time to
hold it together and wasn’t always successful. I can also imagine P-22
at peace now, which such a powerful and caring send off to the next
place. As we laid him to rest, a red-tailed hawk flew overhead and
called loudly, perhaps there to help him on his journey.
P-22 changed the world. People all over the
globe connected to him, and he connected us to each other. But more
importantly, he helped create a new modern ethic toward wildlife, one
that values wildlife as fellow beings, worthy of our respect and
compassion, an understanding and wisdom that has always been a value of
Indigenous people, as my friend, Alan Salazar, Band of Mission Indians
Elder, Chumash, Tataviam, & Pipimaram lineages once shared,
“Indigenous people have used the animals as teachers for thousands of
For me, P-22 will always be with us, and his
legacy will continue in helping people build new relationships with
wildlife, less about dominance, and more about us realizing we are
inextricably linked to the same natural world, and considering our
fellow wild neighbors as “other nations, caught with ourselves in the
net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of
the earth,” as Henry Beston once wrote.
As I drove home from the burial, a verse from a Mary Oliver poem occurred to me:
“…To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”
Rest in peace, P-22.
Regional Executive Director, California, National Wildlife Federation Leader, #SaveLACougars Campaign