It was P-22! L.A.’s famous mountain lion was indeed spotted roaming Silver Lake
Sometime around dusk on Tuesday, the celebrity mountain lion known as P-22 made his way along Silver Lake Boulevard without much fanfare. The 123-pound big cat managed to traverse 3 ½ miles of residential neighborhoods from his usual stomping grounds around the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park to a spot not far from the Silver Lake Reservoir.
Whatever major roads or backyards P-22 crossed is unclear, but his route led him to Berkeley Circle in Silver Lake. That’s where the big cat locked eyes with Chris Blim standing just a few yards away. He was talking to a friend when something triggered a light on his neighbor’s doorbell camera.
At first, he thought the animal was a coyote, but he quickly realized it was a mountain lion.
“We’re just standing there looking at each other and the light goes off,” he said. “The only thing you see is the eyes, and that’s when the heart drops. This is not a house cat.”
Los Angeles residents spotted a mountain lion on the streets Tuesday night, sparking speculation it may be Griffith Park’s P-22.
Blim said he took a video of the itinerant feline on his phone. He and his friend then moved to the safety of Blim’s home, where they knew they’d at least have a gate between themselves and the lion.
P-22’s sojourn into the hip hillside district was the talk of Silver Lake and the latest chapter in a remarkable journey for a majestic creature who survived freeway crossings, an iconic National Geographic photo shoot that made him world famous and even an encounter at the L.A. Zoo that didn’t go so well for a koala.
“Ultimately it’s pretty awesome,” Blim said. “The whole neighborhood’s excited.”
Although P-22 is tagged and monitored by the National Park Service, his GPS collar does not give a play-by-play map to researchers. The 12-year-old mountain lion does not announce his presence and, like any cat, he nimbly navigates his way through a world of humans. For a decade, he’s co-existed with people without much trouble.
Grainy photos of the cougar shared on social media Tuesday evening showed him sporting his radio collar as he slinked around plastic trash bins, adobe-style garage facades and the narrow streets of Silver Lake’s residential neighborhood.
By 3 a.m. Wednesday, the big cat’s radio collar showed him east of the Silver Lake Reservoir, according to the National Park Service.
Residents reported sightings and warned neighbors to be aware and stay cautious if they were out walking.
Still, the celebrity status should not cloud the fact that this is a mountain lion roaming about a residential neighborhood.
“If you see a mountain lion, please give them space,” National Park Service spokesperson Ana Beatriz Cholo said. “Don’t try to get a selfie. P-22 has had his paparazzi moments, and people have to realize he’s a wild animal.”
It’s unclear why P-22 has made his way to Silver Lake. Researchers believe P-22 is originally from the Santa Monica Mountains, born to P-1 and an unnamed female lion. In 2012, he found his way across the 405 and 101 freeways and journeyed to Griffith Park. He’s made the occasional foray into the Hollywood Hills, and in 2015, he baffled biologists when he settled into a crawlspace under a Los Feliz home. Then, just as abruptly as he appeared, he split that neighborhood.
Now it’s Silver Lake’s turn to host the celebrity.
“He’s certainly never been this far from Griffith Park before,” said Beth Pratt, who heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation and often works with the National Park Service.
Mountain lions tend to travel during the day, but P-22 may be limited by roads, highways and other developments. The lonely P-22 does not have to worry about defending his territory from other lions, but he also cannot find a mate. Now at 12, the famous mountain lion is heading out farther from his usual stomping grounds.
“We can’t say for sure what’s making him travel so far. The deeper he gets into more urban and human spaces, the more potential there is for conflict and harm,” Pratt said.
As far as researchers know, P-22 has managed to avoid being hit by any vehicles while living in Griffith Park. Although he suffered a bout of mange due to rat poison in 2014, the lion remains healthy today. Still, there are so many variables to having a wild animal like him roaming around residential neighborhoods.
“He can take a stroll on Sunset Boulevard if he wants to, but I will feel much better when he gets back to Griffith Park,” Pratt said.
By Wednesday morning, P-22’s presence could be felt around Berkeley Circle, with neighbors chattering after the lion graced their street.
“There are so many questions about why the mountain lion is here,” Eric Pierce said during a morning walk with his two dogs, El Chapo and Chucho. “Is it because he’s looking for a mate, for food? Why is he willing to take such a risk?”
Pierce’s neighbor, Vincent Lopez, has lived on the street for 26 years and said the most he’s ever seen are coyotes darting around the neighborhood.
“I just hope he’s OK. There are just so many things that could happen,” Lopez said, noting that cars often drive through the narrow streets quickly.
“It’s certainly alarming to know that he was just around the corner,” he added.
While Pierce and Lopez were talking, another neighbor called from across the street: “Did you hear about the mountain lion? I’m telling all my neighbors with cats.”
In another part of the neighborhood, Alex Papademas walked his dog, Daisy. P-22’s visit did not deter him from his morning walk, but he had sought to protect his own cats after he heard the news.
“We did end up bringing in the cats last night,” Papademas said.
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