Two years ago, the mug shots of the Griffith Park mountain lion known as P-22 were unflattering at best.
Remote cameras in the park captured him in 2014 looking thin and sickly, his face distorted by mange. But these days, he's a good-looking, healthy guy, the National Park Service said Thursday.
The 6-year-old puma was captured and examined by biologists in December, and he appears to have fully recovered from a serious bout of mange, said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
The skin lesions and scabs that covered his body and face are gone, and he has gained 15 pounds since his last capture, Sikich said.
"It's great news," Sikich said. "When we last caught him, he wasn't looking too good."
P-22 was caught and examined in April 2014, after trail cameras captured images of him looking ill. Scientists sedated him and drew blood samples, finding evidence of exposure to rat poisons.
National Park Service scientists treated P-22 with topical medications and vitamin K injections to offset the effects of mange and poisoning and released him back into the park.
Researchers suspect a link between rat poisons and mange, a parasitic skin disease that causes crusting and lesions and has contributed to the deaths of scores of bobcats and coyotes. Sikich said the nature of the link is not fully understood, but it is likely that mountain lions that ingest rat poison have compromised immune systems, making them more susceptible to mange.
Sikich said it is still likely that P-22 continues to be exposed to rat poison, but his overall health is much improved. When the puma was recaptured last month, researchers took skin scrapings that are still being analyzed, Sikich said.
The park service said Thursday that researchers have found exposure to rat poison in 12 of 13 local mountain lions since they began studying them in 2002.
Biologists have been tracking and studying P-22, who wears a GPS collar, since early 2012, when he is believed to have first entered Griffith Park. Genetic testing from UCLA and UC Davis showed that he was probably born in the Santa Monica Mountains and would have had to cross the 405 and 101 freeways to make it to his current home.
P-22 has become somewhat of a mascot for Griffith Park, with his majestic image captured in front of the Hollywood sign by a National Geographic wildlife photographer.
Last year, the mountain lion caused an only-in-Los Angeles scene — complete with TV news trucks lining the street — when he padded out of Griffith Park and took refuge in the crawl space under a Los Feliz home. He eventually wandered back into the park.
Sikich said P-22 is believed to be the most urban mountain lion in Southern California, surviving in a roughly 8-square-mile home. He's believed to be the only mountain lion there and has been thriving on a diet of mule deer, raccoon and coyote, Sikich said.
Scientists, Sikich said, are curious to see how long P-22 sticks around the park. Only time will tell, he said.
"He's in this small park. When he was a young adult male, it was great because there was no competition for hunting," Sikich said. "Now that he's an adult and there are no females, you'd think the desire to mate would bring him out of there."