Artist Cori Mattei was having a few glasses of wine one night in Los Angeles when she heard something outside her house.
At first she thought her brother’s Labrador retriever had run away and went to let him in.
But what he found wasn’t a chocolate lab.
“It’s a mountain lion,” Matty said.
Not just any mountain lion, but the most famous mountain lion in Hollywood, and perhaps the world.
His name is P-22 And the March crowd left an indelible mark, Matty recounted.
His green eyes flashed directly at her, and she turned around, taking a quick video before she hid in the house, and P-22 was at dawn, quietly climbing a fence.
“He touched my soul, he could have destroyed me, he didn’t,” she said. “It quickly intensified my spirit animal. It went from zero to a hundred very quickly.”
Matty isn’t the first to be charmed by P-22, but residents can no longer look forward to magical encounters with the mysterious beast.
On Saturday, P-22 fans were left heartbroken California Department of Fish and Wildlife Due to his old age and severe health problems, he was declared a legendary cat Humanely put to sleep. Officials called it “a very tough but compassionate option.”
It has somehow kept the city buzzing since 2012, crossing two deadly highways and setting up shop on a hill called Griffith Park, one of the world’s largest concrete jungles.
Since then, his charisma and his curious habitation in the city have made him a A local folk hero. Stranded on an urban island with no chance of finding a mate, his plight also made him the face of a movement to protect endangered species.
Although he no longer haunts the heart of Los Angeles, his decade-long reign has cemented his status as one of the biggest Hollywood stars on the big screen.
A star is born
Griffith Park is small compared to the average mountain lion habitat of 150 square miles. However, like many city dwellers, the P-22 was willing to sacrifice space for a niche.
It was First discovered in February 2012. Biologist Miguel Ardenana, who set up camera traps in the park, reviewed the nighttime images.
“Suddenly this huge cougar butt appears on my computer screen!” Artenana recalled.
At first I couldn’t believe it, but a later photo confirmed that the park had a new resident.
In August, the P-22 received its first profile in the LA Times.
The big cat captured the imagination Famous nature photographer Steve Winter, who founded the camera trap under the Hollywood sign. He waited more than a year to step into the frame of the P-22.
The photo went viral in National Geographic and a star was born.
“It gave people hope because they live in this big urban area and they come to this park and it’s really wild, with California cougars,” Winter said. “He’s become a celebrity in a city of celebrities.”
A decade later the P-22 fell apart. He gave a repairman a scare in 2015 when he hid in a spot under a Los Feliz home. He was occasionally spotted on doorbell and park cameras, looking handsome and handsome, as if feasting on a recently cut deer.
The city loved him so much that they forgave him when he (probably) killed a koala at the Los Angeles Zoo.
The city has declared October 22 as “P-22 Day”.
But also It symbolized a much darker reality for California cougars.
Local prey — coyotes, raccoons and other small animals — are ubiquitous in Los Angeles with rat poison.
In 2014, camera traps found P-22 looking ill and officials took him in for treatment.
A mug of P-22 quickly went viral with aroma and consternation, but the reason was no joke. It was found to be full of rat poison and consumed by mange, which kills most pumas.
The species’ habitat is choked by California highways. Although up to 6,000 mountain lions live in California, researchers believe it is the population in the Santa Monica Mountains where P-22 may have been born. May be gone in 50 years Because cats are inbreeding, weakening their gene pool.
Major asphalt cuts can also make trips to new homes life-threatening. In September, a pregnant cougar was struck and killed while trying to cross the Malibu Highway, which divides a major part of its habitat. She and her four unborn cubs had traces of rat poison in their systems.
Ardenana once shot a video of the P-22. They would never be answered: the freeways and urban development around Griffith Park ensured that it was isolated from any potential females and never reproduced.
The reign of the Lion King ended
His presence among the men who loved him diminished. At the age of 12, he began to irregularly spend more time in the urban areas surrounding the park.
He recently killed a chihuahua in Los Angeles, one of the least threatened but most protected breeds. The last straw came after he assaulted a resident who was walking his dog.
Authorities found him in a backyard on Dec. 12, P-22 underweight, with scabies and an eye injury from a vehicle collision, according to the U.S. said Jeff Chigich of the National Parks. -22 more than anyone else.
At a press conference the next day, it was revealed that there was no chance of returning to the forest.
On December 17, wildlife officials announced that veterinarians had recommended humane euthanasia after a thorough health evaluation revealed kidney disease, heart disease and other serious ailments.
“I told him how sorry I was for not making the world a safer place for him,” said Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation, who attended P-22’s final moments.
As sad as his end was, his loyal fans say his legacy as a Los Angeles icon is secure.
“It survived through thick and thin,” said Matty, who was inspired to paint the large P-22 mural and engage in conservation campaigns. “A lot of people can relate to him, it’s not easy, Los Angeles will bite you and spit you out,” he said, but he persevered.
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