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Here's How to Watch When LA Celebrates Hollywood Mountain Lion P-22

NBC Los Angeles 2/4/2023 Jonathan Lloyd
© Provided by NBC Los Angeles

Los Angeles' most famous mountain lion, a trailblazer who crossed freeways and helped residents better understand wildlife living in an urban landscape, will be celebrated Saturday at the Greek Theater in the park he used to roam.

The sold-out P-22 Celebration of Life, a presentation by the National Wildlife Federation, is scheduled for Saturday at the Greek Theater in the hills overlooking Hollywood. At the time he was euthanized in December, P-22 was the oldest and best-known cat in a National Park Service mountain lion study that began two decades ago.

P22 Celebration Of Life from Mykel on Vimeo.

He became the feline face of the NPS study, a wildlife education ambassador who crossed two of LA's buesiest freeways -- one freeway crossing is perilous enough for a mountain lion -- on a journey from the western Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park. In the years that followed, the Hollywood Cat was spotted in neighborhoods near the park and even holed up underneath a Los Feliz residence.

Beloved by Angelenos, P-22 was never likely to find a female mate in the confines of isolated Griffith Park and the eastern Hollywood Hills.

On Dec. 17, days after being captured for a health evaluation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced P-22 was euthanized due to several chronic health problems.

Here's what to know about Saturday's P-22 celebration.

How to Watch the P-22 Celebration of Life

The P-22 Celebration of Life is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Greek Theater. Tickets went quickly for the free event, but a livestream will be provided here. The event will feature speakers and musical performances.

Why Was P-22 So Famous?

P-22 lived a highly unusual, but probably very lonely life. Most adult male mountain lions need at least 150 square miles of territory. P-22 lived most of his life in 8-square-mile Griffith Park area. Somehow, he journeyed from the western Santa Monica Mountains and crossed two major LA freeways -- the 405 and 101 -- to become Hollywood's wildlife star. It's a crossing that has killed other cats over the years.

P-22 was first documented in early 2012 by a camera trap. He was captured and fitted with a GPS collar in March 2012 and lived in Griffith Park since at least February 2012.

In 2013, his fame rose to new heights thanks to something every Hollywood star should have -- a memorable closeup. No photo captured the mystique of P-22 quite like a National Geographic image of the big cat at night with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Why Was P-22 Euthanized?

According to his health evaluation, P-22 had several severe injuries and chronic health problems. He was significantly underweight and had an eye injury that made officials believe he may have been hit by a car recently. Compassionate euthanasia under general anesthesia was unanimously recommended by the medical team at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

About Mountain Lions in California

There are about 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in California, but wildlife officials call that a crude estimate without an ongoing statewide study. More than half of the state is considered prime habitat for the big cats, which can be found wherever deer are present.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife receives hundreds of mountain lion sighting reports each year. Few result in mountain lions being identified as posing an imminent threat to public safety, the department said. Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare and their nature is to avoid humans.

It is estimated that the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains could become extinct within 50 years without an influx of genetic diversity. The lions are largely isolated due to freeways that act as barriers to movement across the region.

Conservationists hope the $85 million Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which will span the 101 Freeway in Liberty Canyon near Agoura Hills, will alleviate the problem when it is completed in 2025. It will be the largest crossing of its kind in the world -- a fully landscaped passage for wildlife that will stretch 210 feet over 10 lanes of highway and pavement.

The crossing aims to provide a connection between the small population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and the larger and genetically diverse populations to the north.

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