On Monday last week I took a short walk on Hollywood Boulevard. It was clear and hot and the only sign of wildlife was a pigeon pecking in a patch of scrubby dirt. I glanced down at the stars lining the sidewalk, but was distracted by the hills visible to the north beyond Highway 101. Somewhere up there, less than five miles from the Starbucks where I stopped for an iced coffee and a reprieve from the blazing sun, lives P-22.
His story is amazing, a mountain lion crossing two major freeways to travel from the Santa Monica Mountains into Griffith Park, a 4000-acre park in the heart of Los Angeles. It’s a feat that’s hard to fathom especially if you have ever driven through the city—it doesn’t matter what time of day or night, the roads are filled with delivery trucks, semis, school buses, and cars, hundreds of thousands of them.
But somehow P-22 managed it and took up residence in the hills above the city where he found abundant deer and no competition from other mountain lions.
Miguel Ordeñana, a wildlife biologist, recounts the thrill of finally verifying the existence of the then-unidentified lion in 2012 after numerous ‘unconfirmed sightings.’ “An LA Story” is featured in the Summer 2016 issue of Earth Island Journal. Once P-22 was captured, collared, and released back in the park he became even more of a celebrity, seldom seen, but living large in the imaginations of millions in LA and beyond, spurring talk of a wildlife bridge over Highway 101.
I have followed P-22’s tale for the past couple of years via National Geographic’s Instagram feed and was captivated by Steve Winter’s photo of him in front of the lighted Hollywood sign at night. It wasn’t an easy shot to get—lots of time and patience—he shares the details here.
In the new book When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors: People and wildlife working it out in California Beth Pratt-Bergstrom also relates P-22’s story along with her guess as to how he got across all those lanes of traffic, “He probably did what most of us do when confronted with the Los Angeles freeways: floor it and hope for the best.”
Pratt-Bergstrom compares P-22’s journey to that of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Funny, but that’s the only plaque (a circle instead of the usual star) that caused me to pause on my walk. It’s at Hollywood and Vine and honors the Apollo 11 crew, the first to walk on the moon.