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Los Angeles’s celebrity mountain lion known as P-22 was euthanized Saturday morning after suffering from “severe” injuries and health issues, state wildlife officials announced.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service captured the lion, who was believed to be 12 years old, earlier this week due to concerns about his recent behavior and health. According to a statement, wildlife experts determined that P-22 had suffered “significant trauma” to his head, right eye, and internal organs, possibly from a recent vehicle strike. Their examination also showed the cat had been dealing with several pre-existing illnesses, including kidney disease, chronic weight loss, and a parasitic skin infection.
“Mountain lion P-22 has had an extraordinary life and captured the hearts of the people of Los Angeles and beyond,” the state agency said. “The most difficult, but compassionate choice was to respectfully minimize his suffering and stress by humanely ending his journey.”
P-22 was one of the oldest mountain lions in a National Park Service study in California that started 20 years ago. He was first captured and collared by biologists in March 2012, at which point they estimated that he was about 2 years old. Likely born in the Santa Monica Mountains, the beloved lion became famous after somehow traversing the 405 and 101 freeways and making his home in Griffith Park. Over the years, images and videos have captured him walking around the urban park, through the Hollywood Hills, and more recently in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood.
“He showed us what mountain lions must do to survive in our urban landscape, as he dispersed through it to find a remaining island of habitat,” the park service said. “He also showed us what they are capable of: surviving and co-existing with millions of people in a city as dense and sprawling as Los Angeles.”
Immediately following the news of his death, Angelenos and other P-22 admirers began sharing tributes to the celebrity lion. Los Angeles Council Member Nithya Raman, whose district encompasses the park, called him “The King of Council District 4.”
“You have forever changed Los Angeles,” Raman tweeted, “and we will never forget you.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom praised P-22 and his “incredible journey” for inspiring “a new era of conserving and reconnecting nature,” citing the ongoing project to build a wildlife overpass over the 101 to reduce wildlife deaths.
But the most moving tribute of all came from Beth Pratt, a regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, which has been instrumental in advocating for the protection of Los Angeles’s big cats.
“I can’t finish this sentence without crying because of the past tense,” Pratt wrote in a post on the famous lion’s Facebook page. “It’s hard to imagine I will be writing about P-22 in the past tense now.”
“I hope his future is filled with endless forests without a car or road in sight and where deer are plentiful,” she continued, “and I hope he finally finds the mate that his island existence denied him his entire life.”
Pratt said she got the opportunity to say goodbye to the beloved lion in person after never seeing him up close before.
“I sat near him, looking into his eyes for a few minutes, and told him he was a good boy,” she wrote. “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.”
“I don’t have any illusion that my presence or words comforted him,” Pratt continued. “And I left with a great sadness I will carry for the rest of my days.”
The wildlife advocate said that, as difficult as it was to watch P-22 leave this world, she agreed with the officials’ decision to euthanize him, saying it was the responsible and “compassionate” choice to end his suffering.
“Thank you for the gift of knowing you, P-22. I’ll miss you forever,” she wrote. “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.”
You can read the full eulogy here:
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