LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – Los Angeles’ most famous mountain lion, known for roaming across freeways and making a sprawling urban park his home, was captured Monday by wildlife officials who want to examine the big cat after he killed a dog that was being walked in the Hollywood Hills.
The cougar, dubbed P-22, wears a GPS tracking collar as part of a National Park Service study and is regularly recorded on security cameras strolling through residential areas near Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, a wilderness and picnic area.
Wildlife officials told KTLA they started searching the area after receiving an anonymous call that the feline had been hit by a car. They used the cat’s GPS collar to track it to a homeowner’s backyard.
The mountain lion recently attacked and killed a leashed dog that was on a walk with its owner in the Hollywood Hills. That prompted officials at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to announce plans to catch and evaluate the animal.
“P-22 is a remarkably old cat in the wild and, after being deemed responsible for killing a leashed pet last month, may be exhibiting signs of distress,” CDFW said in a news release. “As P-22 has aged, however, the challenges associated with living on an island of habitat seem to be increasing and scientists are noting a recent change in his behavior.”
The homeowner, Sarah Picchi, told KTLA that she learned P-22 was in her backyard when wildlife officials showed up to her gate at around 10:30 a.m.
“I thought she said she was from a wildlife conservancy group raising money and so I just said, ‘I am sorry…this isn’t a good time. I’m on a work call,’ and she said, ‘No. I’m from wildlife. You have a lion in your backyard,” Picchi said. “I knew it was P-22 because I’ve been following the story like every other Angeleno.”
Despite living in a busy residential area, her quarter-acre backyard has a hillside covered in trees and brush.
“We have a lot of wildlife in our neighborhood and in our yard. We see a lot of coyotes. So, I’m not surprised, but I guess what I was surprised to learn was that he had been in our yard since the night before,” Picchi said.
Wildlife officials, according to Picchi, quickly darted the big cat, checked its vitals and then carried him away to the L.A. Zoo for further evaluation.
“They seem to think he looked healthy,” she said.
Wildlife officials told KTLA that P-22 needed to be captured and evaluated not just because of the recent attacks on dogs, but because it has been staying in highly urban areas, which is very different from the cat’s normal behavior. For the past decade, they said the mountain lion had lived in Griffith Park and fed on deer and coyotes.
P-22 is believed to be about 12 years old, making him the oldest Southern California cougar currently being studied. Most mountain lions live about a decade.
P-22 was the face of the campaign to build a wildlife crossing over a Los Angeles-area freeway to give big cats, coyotes, deer and other wildlife a safe path to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.
J.P. Rose, policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said P-22’s distress in his old age “underscores the need to proactively protect mountain lions and other wildlife by reconnecting our landscape.”
“Wildlife need room to roam to keep animal populations and people healthy and safe. State officials must protect mountain lions under the California Endangered Species Act and LA must adopt a strong connectivity ordinance so other wildlife are not doomed to a life of isolation,” Rose said in a statement.
The bridge, which will stretch 200 feet over U.S. 101, broke ground this year and is expected to be completed by early 2025.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.