Dear Friends: I write this eulogy while looking across one of the ten-lane freeways P-22somehow 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 theSanta Monica Mountains emerge from this urban island like sentinels making alast stand against the second largest city in the country. The traffic noise neverceases. Helicopters fly overhead. The lights of the city give the sky no peace. Yet a mountain lion lived here, right here in Los Angeles. I can’t finish this sentence without crying because of the past tense. It’s hard toimagine I will be writing about P-22 in the past tense now. Biologists and veterinarians with the California Department of Fish and Wildlifeannounced today they have made the difficult decision to end P-22’s sufferingand help him transition peacefully to the next place. I hope his future is filledwith 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 hisentire life. I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to say goodbye to P-22. Although Ihave advocated for his protection for a decade, we had never met before. I satnear him, looking into his eyes for a few minutes, and told him he was a goodboy. I told him how much I loved him. How much the world loved him. And I toldhim I was so sorry that we did not make the world a safer place for him. Iapologized 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. And I leftwith a great sadness I will carry for the rest of my days. Before I said goodbye, I sat in a conference room with team members from the CaliforniaDepartment 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 asthey 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), headand eye trauma, a hernia causing abdominal organs to fill his chest cavity, an extensivecase 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 lastweek, and I thought of how terrible it was that this cat, who had managed to evade cars fora decade, in his weakened and desperate condition could not avoid the vehicle strike thatsealed his fate. As the agency folks and veterinarians relayed these sobering facts to me, tissue boxeswere passed around the table and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This team caresjust as much for this cat as we all do. They did everything they could for P-22 and deserveour gratitude. Although I wished so desperately he could be returned to the wild, or live out his days in asanctuary, the decision to euthanize our beloved P-22 is the right one. With these healthissues, there could be no peaceful retirement, only some managed care existence wherewe prolonged his suffering—not for his benefit, but for ours.
Those of us who have pets know how it feels when we receive news from the veterinarianthat we don’t want to hear. As a lifelong dog and cat owner, I have been in this dreadfulposition too many times. The decision to let them go is never easy, but we as humans havethe ability, the responsibility, and the selflessness to show mercy to end the suffering forthese beloved family members, a compassionate choice we scarcely have for ourselves. I look at Griffith Park through the window again and feel the loss so deeply. Whenever Ihiked to the Hollywood sign, or strolled down a street in Beachwood Canyon to pick up asandwich at The Oaks, or walked to my car after a concert at the Greek Theater, thewondrous knowledge that I could encounter P-22 always propelled me into a joyous kind ofawe. And I am not alone — his legion of stans hoped for a sight of Hollywood’s mostbeloved 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 mostHollywood of P-22’s moments, human celebrity Alan Ruck, star of Succession, oncereported seeing P-22 from his deck, and shouting at him like a devoted fan would. We will all be grappling with the loss of P-22 for some time, trying to make sense of a LosAngeles without this magnificent wild creature. I loved P-22 and hold a deep respect for hisintrepid spirit, charm, and just plain chutzpah. We may never see another mountain lionstroll down Sunset Boulevard or surprise customers outside the Los Feliz Trader Joe’s. Butperhaps that doesn’t matter—what matters is P-22 showed us it’s possible. He changed us. He changed the way we look at LA. And his influencer status extendedaround the world, as he inspired millions of people to see wildlife as their neighbors. Hemade us more human, made us connect more to that wild place in ourselves. We are partof nature and he reminded us of that. Even in the city that gave us Carmeggedon, wherewe thought wildness had been banished a long time ago, P-22 reminded us it’s still here. His legacy to us, and to his kind will never fade. He ensured a future for the entirepopulation of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains by inspiring us to build theWallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which broke ground this spring. P-22 never fully got to be a mountain lion. His whole life, he suffered the consequences oftrying to survive in unconnected space, right to the end when being hit by a car led to histragic 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 travelto find food, shelter, and families. The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing would not havebeen possible without P-22, but the most fitting memorial to P-22 will be how we carry hisstory forward in the work ahead. One crossing is not enough – we must build more, and wemust continue to invest in proactive efforts to protect and conserve wildlife and the habitatsthey depend on—even in urban areas. P-22’s journey to and life in Griffith Park was a miracle. It’s my hope that future mountainlions will be able to walk in the steps of P-22 without risking their lives on California’shighways and streets. We owe it to P-22 to build more crossings and connect the habitatswhere we live now. Thank you for the gift of knowing you, P-22. I’ll miss you forever. But I will never stopworking to honor your legacy, and although we failed you, we can at least partly atone bymaking the world safer for your kind. With kindness,
Beth Pratt California Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation Leader, #SaveLACougars Campaign