‘Incredibly difficult’: Why officials euthanized ailing mountain lion P-22

P-22 walks through a break in a chain link fence at night.
At times, P-22 seemed aware of the trail cameras that monitored his movements in Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
(Miguel Ordeñana / Natural History Museum)

Since capturing P-22 earlier this week, wildlife officials struggled with the best path for the celebrity mountain lion who spent more than a decade roaming Griffith Park and the hillsides of Los Angeles.

State officials ultimately decided to euthanize P-22 at 9 a.m. Saturday morning due to serious health issues. Here is what we know about the mountain lion and his deteriorating condition.

“This really hurts and I know that. It’s been an incredibly difficult several days,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “And for myself I’ve felt the entire weight of the city of Los Angeles.”


Health issues

The big cat suffered a skull fracture, herniated organs and a torn diaphragm, according to Hendrik Nollens, vice president of wildlife health at the San Diego Zoo, where P-22 was euthanized.

The injuries were mostly likely caused by a collision with a car last week, officials said.

The mountain lion P-22, who lived in the heart of Los Angeles for more than a decade and became the face of an international campaign to save Southern California’s threatened pumas, was euthanized Saturday.

Dec. 17, 2022

The big cat also had kidney failure, advanced liver disease, heart disease and a parasitic infection, officials said.

P-22 weighed about 90 pounds, a loss of nearly one-fourth of his typical body weight. He also had a thinning coat and damage to his right eye, possibly from the car collision. A local animal control department had received a call reporting a vehicle collision with a mountain lion, and P-22’s radio collar placed him near the intersection where the crash was reported, wildlife officials said earlier this week.

Warning signs

State wildlife officials decided earlier this month to capture P-22 after a series of concerning issues.

He began to exhibit increasing “signs of distress,” including three attacks on dogs in a month and several near-miss encounters with people walking in Los Feliz and Silver Lake. The mountain lion killed a Chihuahua on its leash in November near the Hollywood Reservoir.

P-22, who has been euthanized due to severe injuries, was thought to be about 12 years old.

Dec. 17, 2022

“It was a tough decision — it was the right decision,” said Beth Pratt, the California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. “This animal did not deserve to suffer.”

Old age

P-22 was thought to be about 12 years old, geriatric by wild mountain lion standards. Some experts said that old age may have been a factor in his deteriorating condition.

Veterinarian Winston Vickers from the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center said last week that he has observed changes in mountain lions’ behavior as they age and develop aging-related issues, including tooth problems and difficulties in tackling their normal prey.


A Chihuahua killed in the Hollywood Hills was the victim of L.A.’s famous big cat, P-22, authorities said.

Nov. 21, 2022

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any video of a mountain lion attacking a deer, but it is a rigorous experience for everyone, including the mountain lion,” Vickers said. “They have all the aches and pains and arthritis and things that we have.”

What will happen to P-22 now?

A pathologist from the San Diego Zoo and a mountain lion disease specialist doctor from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct a post-mortem examination, said senior wildlife veterinarian Deana Clifford. After his death, P-22 will contribute to multiple research studies on genetics, reproduction and health in mountain lions, she said.

Then P-22’s body will be sent to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County, where he will be examined by Miguel Ordeñana, the scientist who first discovered P-22 in Griffith Park in 2012.

“I think that’s a really fitting closure for a life well-lived,” Clifford said.