Thursday, 1 Jun 2023

Why P-22 Is Still Everywhere in Los Angeles

Before P-22 died in December, I’ll admit I was only vaguely aware that there was a mountain lion living in Griffith Park.

I had heard the name and was familiar with some of the many perils that pumas in the Los Angeles area were facing — shrinking territory and an attendant lack of genetic diversity, speeding freeway traffic and exposure to rat poison — but I didn’t know much about what made P-22 singular.

Then, late last year, P-22, who had made an unlikely home in Los Angeles’s biggest municipal park for more than a decade, started behaving more aggressively. Wildlife officials took it as a sign that after a long, difficult life, his health had deteriorated and that he should be euthanized. After his death, he became inescapable.

There was his feline face on a giant yellow mural at a fitness studio where I sometimes take classes. There was a memorial at the Greek Theater, attended by thousands of locals, including celebrities. The Los Angeles Public Library hosted a reading of “love letters” to honor him, and issued a limited edition library card. Representative Adam Schiff emailed constituents to say that he was hard at work pushing for a P-22 postage stamp.

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion to build a permanent memorial to him at Griffith Park, which would put the puma in league with James Dean, whose bust is on display near Griffith Observatory.

All this had me wondering: What was it about this wild animal, living in a city full of human celebrities, that inspired such fervent adoration?

What I found while reporting my recent article about P-22’s legacy is that his star potential was recognized years ago and magnified by wildlife conservationists like Beth Pratt, the National Wildlife Federation’s executive director for California, who became the cat’s unofficial agent.

She helped make him the face of a successful campaign to raise money to build the world’s largest wildlife crossing, which is under construction over Highway 101 in Agoura Hills.

But his story of isolation — he was a bachelor who never mated — and survival in a city that has a tendency to grind down individuals also resonated with Angelenos.

To Warren Dickson, a hip-hop artist who tries to get students from South Los Angeles engaged in environmentalism, P-22 is at once a kindred spirit and a vexing point of comparison.

He recalled meeting Pratt by chance after he was hired to drive her to a wildlife conservation fund-raiser. She invited him into the event, and he was struck by the level of concern even for predators.

“Black people just want you to love them like you love mountain lions,” he recalled telling the mostly white guests.

Rather than turn away, Pratt was appreciative of Dickson’s honesty, he said, and the two struck up a productive friendship. She eventually helped him record and make a music video for his song “If I Was Wild.”

Dickson believes that fostering a connection with P-22’s story can help build empathy for marginalized human communities like his own. He hopes to make a full-time career out of wildlife conservation.

Some of P-22’s appeal was more instinctive. At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where there is an exhibit dedicated to his “hero’s journey,” I found Michelle Davis pointing at a big map, showing the cougar’s territory while her 5-year-old son, Benjamin, poked at buttons to represent other known pumas.

Benjamin, she explained, had been assigned a “passion project” through his school. Last year, he tackled Metro trains. This year, he planned to learn about the big cat.

“Why did you pick P-22?” Davis gently prodded her son.

He squirmed shyly, his eyes downcast.

“I miss him,” he said. Then he bounded away.

For more:

Read the full article about the enduring power of a big cat in star-obsessed Los Angeles.

Read about when P-22 was caught.

If you read one story, make it this

On Thursday, the United States lifted a pandemic rule that had been used to immediately kick out hundreds of thousands of migrants who crossed the border illegally over the last three years. Here’s a guide to who gets in now.

The rest of the news

A ruling on pigs: The Supreme Court upheld a California law that sought to address cruelty to animals, saying the state could require that pork sold in the state but produced elsewhere come from breeding pigs housed in spaces that allow them to move around freely.

Caste discrimination outlawed: The California Senate voted 34 to 1 in favor of legislation outlawing caste discrimination in the state, The Associated Press reports.


Market spiral: The lender PacWest Bank, based in Los Angeles, lost nearly 10 percent of its deposits over the last week, igniting customers’ “fears of the safety of their deposits.”

Planting evidence: Orange County sheriff’s officials are being accused in court records of planting evidence by moving drugs found in one investigation into the file of a second, unrelated drug case, The Los Angeles Times reports.


Right-wing extremism: A new report from the Anti-Defamation League found significant increases in white supremacist and antisemitic incidents in California in 2022 compared with 2021, The Fresno Bee reports.


Homeless site: San Francisco’s plans to close an R.V. homeless shelter on the outskirts of the Bayview neighborhood are prompting an outcry from city supervisors who want to keep the site open, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Twitter C.E.O.: Elon Musk said on Thursday that he had selected a chief executive for Twitter and that he would remain involved as the company’s executive chair.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Claire Ramos, who recommends a drive in Rancho Palos Verdes:

“The cliffs at Point Vicente, near Redondo Beach and south of Los Angeles, make for an amazing drive. Catalina Island sparkles across the waves immediately to the west, and the cliffs retain a sort of mysterious silvery light. There’s an old lighthouse and park to wander through, where you can watch rabbits and ground squirrels in the brush. A quiet, enchanting, magical place.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

And before you go, some good news

The Marin Independent Journal recently asked readers to share six-word stories of things they treasure. Here’s some of our favorites:

“From Mother, the gift of gab.” — Patrick Ritter, San Rafael

“Loud vinyl music, hear me scream.” — Lucy Ray Bakowski, Fairfax

“Golden retriever Elliott, my greatest gift.” — Ann Troy, San Anselmo

“Being a parent, becoming a grandparent.” — Anna Lazzarini, Novato

“My first bike, a love affair.” — Alan Goldfarb, San Rafael

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy your weekend.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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