A big week in #SaveLACougars news: P22 recovers from mange and David Crosby helps with research

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P22 coughs up a hairball, probably from the deer he is dining upon. (Photo National Park Service)

Have you ever seen a mountain lion cough up a hairball? Neither had I. But new photos just released by the National Park Service show P22, the celebrity lion of Los Angeles, doing just that after dining on a deer. More importantly, the photographs reveal him free of the mange he had suffered earlier this year.

“He looks healthy and has a full belly,” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “Based on the number of photos, the multiple angles and the clarity, this is the best indication we’ve had that P-22 appears to have recovered.”

P-22 made an incredible journey that involved crossing two major freeways to find a home in Griffith Park. He’s the poster child for National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, an effort to build what could be the largest wildlife crossing in the world over the 101 Freeway to help save the population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. The freeways act as dangerous barriers to these cats who need roam to roam, as a male’s territory usually encompasses about 250 square miles. Most of the mountain lions studied by Jeff and others either turn around when confronted with a freeway or are killed during attempts to cross. P22 has proved to be the exception—the only known mountain lion to have successfully navigated both the 101 and the 405 freeways.

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P22 looks healthy and recovered from mange. (Photo National Park Service)

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P22 showing the symptoms of mange this spring (Photo National Park Service)

Yet P22 remains trapped in Griffith Park, a small urban green space of just 8 square miles. Although he appears to have plenty of deer to feast upon, he’s probably destined to remain a lonely bachelor unless he wants to brave the perilous journey across the freeways again. His love life—or lack thereof—has been the subject of world-wide concern and even warranted a front page story in The Wall Street Journal.

Genetic diversity rather than romance is the impetus for the concern of the scientists about the isolation of P22 and other mountain lions, but that still doesn’t stop well intentioned match makers, like the blind date proposed by Los Angeles Magazine last year when another lion, P-23, made news for her appearance on Mulholland Highway. “In addition to her youth, good looks, independent spirit, love of the great outdoors, and proven ability to bring home the bacon, P-23 does not appear to be related to P-22. So what’s keeping these would-be soul mates apart? The 405. Yes, the east/west L.A. divide has defeated many a romance before, but knowing what we do about these two, we think they can defy the odds. Go get her, lion! (But safely, please.).”

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Destined to remain a bachelor? P22 dines solo on his deer. (Photo National Park Service)

Is a love match finally on the way? It’s highly improbable, but in what could be another important discovery for the Santa Monica Mountains research project this week, a photograph from a security camera might be the first piece of evidence that another mountain lion has crossed the 405. Since it’s not a lion with a GPS collar, researchers have no way of determining from just the photo whether it’s male or female, or where it journeyed from, but they have begun investigating.

How did this discovery come to light? You can thank David Crosby and Chris Stills, son of Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash. I’ve kept David posted about the adventures of P22 (along with pika, frogs and other wildlife). He alerted me Monday night that Chris had tweeted a photo of a mountain lion, asking if this was one being studied. I forwarded the photo to the researchers and others, who noted this might be an unusual discovery. It certainly adds some fun to citizen science efforts when it originates from two great musicians!

chris stills lion

Until more is learned about this mystery cat, we’ll celebrate P22’s return to health and because it’s tough to resist a good love story, hold out the tiniest of hopes the new cat turns out to be female and somehow makes it across the 101 into P22’s territory. Our advice to P22 if this newcomer arrives in Griffith Park? Don’t be too picky, young cougar. In the words of Crosby, Stills and Nash, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

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