Los Angeles can be a difficult metropolis to navigate by car or bicycle or public transit. Which makes the journey of the mountain lion prosaically known as P-22 all the more remarkable and even enchanting. Discovered living in Griffith Park three years ago, he has survived crossing the 405 and 101 freeways, a nasty bout of mange, and this week — in true L.A. fashion — an onslaught of paparazzi outside the Los Feliz home where he was discovered camped underneath Monday.
Angelenos have an uneasy relationship with the wildlife in their midst. Bears who dare to lumber down from mountainsides into nearby towns are tranquilized or killed. Raccoons rummage through garbage and kill koi pond fish. Battles with coyotes are endless.
But the resilience and mystique of P-22 is a reminder that one of the unique and wonderful things about living in Los Angeles is its proximity to what remains of the wild. We should try to protect those creatures by building wildlife crossings and, as much as possible, letting them be. Sometimes, authorities are compelled to intervene. A mountain lion less lucky than P-22 inexplicably ventured into the heart of Santa Monica a few years ago and got cornered in an office building courtyard where a police officer killed it.
On the other hand, P-22 (the 22nd puma that the National Park Service has tracked in and around the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002) has had some helpful attention from humans. After he was first spotted in Griffith Park, scientists managed to tranquilize and outfit him with a GPS collar and ear tags. When biologists trapped him to change the battery in his collar, they also treated him for being sick (probably from eating a coyote that had ingested a poisoned rat.) He recovered.
A remote camera captured him crossing a trail in the park with the Hollywood sign in the background, making him the most famous puma in town. Fortunately, this latest episode in the adventures of P-22 ended without incident, thanks mostly to officials shooing away the media and giving him some space and some quiet. By early Tuesday morning, he had slipped out of the Los Feliz crawl space where he had denned and, according to a biologist tracking him, returned to the park, leaving us to imagine where we might see him next. Before that happens, perhaps we can get him a real name.