P-22, the celebrity mountain lion known as “the Hollywood cat” because he famously roamed the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles for over a decade, has died, state wildlife officials announced Saturday.
The beloved animal, who helped raise awareness for California’s big cat population, was “compassionately euthanized” after he was discovered with chronic health issues and severe injuries from what officials believe was a vehicle strike, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reported.
“P-22’s advanced age, combined with chronic, debilitating, life-shortening conditions and the clear need for extensive long-term veterinary intervention left P-22 with no hope for a positive outcome,” the department said in a news release.
Medical staff attending to P-22 “pulled out all the stops” in an effort to save him, but ultimately, his conditions were too dire, CDFW Director Chuck Bonham said in a news conference Saturday.
“I made the decision that the right thing to do was to bring peace now, rather than have P-22 continue through what would not have been acceptable from a compassionate level, in my mind,” Bonham said.
P-22, who was estimated to be around 12-years-old, had recently appeared to be exhibiting “signs of distress,” killing a leashed pet last month, and attacking others. The behavior led CDFW officials to decide that he needed to be captured and evaluated, which they did on Dec. 12 in a backyard in the Los Feliz neighborhood.
Later, officials received a tip that the cat may have been hit by a vehicle.
After medical staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park performed tests and scans on the feline, they came to the conclusion that P-22 would be euthanized due to his seriously deteriorated health. The tests showed he had “significant trauma” to his head, right eye and internal organs, CDFW said. The tests also showed pre-existing illnesses including kidney disease, chronic weight loss, a parasitic skin infection and localized arthritis.
“This really hurts, and I know that,” Bonham said, fighting tears. “It’s been an incredibly difficult several days. And for myself, I’ve got the entire weight of the city of L.A. on my shoulders.”
The agency disclosed that it would not look into the details of the vehicle collision, as it was not believed to be the fault of P-22 or of the driver.
“It is an eventuality that arises from habitat loss and fragmentation,” the CDFW said. “It underscores the need for thoughtful construction of wildlife crossings and well-planned spaces that provide wild animals room to roam.”
State wildlife officials first captured and collared P-22 in March 2012, when he was believed to be about 2-years-old, according to the National Park Service (NPS). He is one of close to 100 mountain lions which NPS biologists have been tracking and studying since 2002 to better understand the wild mountain lion and big cat population. According to NPS, at least 25 mountain lions have been fatally struck by vehicles over that time.
P-22 “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,” NPS said in a statement.
Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation, wrote a heartfelt eulogy for the feline on Saturday, saying “he changed us.”
“It’s hard to imagine I will be writing about P-22 in the past tense now,” Pratt wrote. “We 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.”
P-22 inspired positive change for wildlife in Southern California, she wrote. He is often given credit for the $87 million Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing which is being constructed over the 101 Freeway in the Agoura Hills. When complete, it will allow animals to roam more freely without the threat of being hit by cars.
“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,” Pratt said.