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P-22 mountain lion was an L.A. celebrity even before becoming lead suspect in koala killing

The legend of Griffith Park's famed mountain lion, P-22, definitely grew on Thursday. Officials say they suspect P-22 of killing one of the Los Angeles Zoo’s koalas. The animal’s mauled body was found near its enclosure earlier this month. Here are some facts on P-22 from the pages of The Times.

Who is P-22?

Biologists say P-22 probably entered Griffith Park in February 2012, after a journey of 20 miles or so from farther west in the Santa Monica Mountains. 

Sometime later, the mountain lion triggered a remote camera set up for a wildlife survey.

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On Feb. 29, 2012, Miguel Ordenana, a biologist working on the survey, began culling a couple of weeks' worth of mundane images of deer and coyotes. Hoping for a bobcat, he was startled to see the massive hindquarters and tail of a much larger animal. He later found the first photo of the lion, which showed his face.

"From what I'd been told and what I knew, it was seemingly nearly impossible for a mountain lion to be there," he told The Times in 2013.

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What are his environs?

 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.

Officials believe P-22 is 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.

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How is his health?

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 as of January, he was doing better.

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.

Will he be in Griffith Park indefinitely?

It’s hard to know.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell suggested it was time for P-22 to find a new home.

“Regardless of what predator killed the koala, this tragedy just emphasizes the need to contemplate relocating P-22 to a safer, more remote wild area where he has adequate space to roam without the possibility of human interaction,” O’Farrell in a statement.

“P-22 is maturing, will continue to wander and runs the risk of a fatal freeway crossing as he searches for a mate. As much as we love P-22 at Griffith Park, we know the park is not ultimately suitable for him. We should consider resettling him in the environment he needs,” he said.

What is the zoo’s response?

Zoo officials have added even more cameras since last week’s attack to see whether they can find how P-22 is getting into the park,

“I’ve told the zoo and other land owners with animals, it is their responsibility to protect those animals with full enclosures and proper fencing,” said Jeff Sikich, a National Park Service biologist and expert on local mountain lion populations.

“Otherwise,” he added, “these mountain lions are being rewarded with free meals by simply going into pens where animals can’t run or hide.”

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UPDATES:

12:35 p.m.: This article was updated with a response from the zoo.

This article was originally published at 10:39 a.m.

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