Why the sick mountain lion P-22 was euthanized
Since the capture of P-22s earlier this week, wildlife officials have struggled with the best path for the famous mountain lion, which has spent more than a decade roaming Griffith Park and the hills of Los Angeles.
State officials eventually decided to euthanize P-22 at 9 a.m. Saturday morning due to serious health issues. Here’s what we know about the mountain lion and its deteriorating condition.
“It really hurts and I know it. It’s been an incredibly difficult few days,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “And I felt the full weight of the city of Los Angeles myself.”
The big cat suffered a fractured skull, prolapsed 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 most likely caused by a collision with a car last week, officials said.
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 a quarter of his typical body weight. He also had thinning fur and damage to his right eye, possibly from the car accident. A local wildlife agency had received a call reporting a vehicle collision with a mountain lion, and the P-22’s radio collar placed it near the intersection where the accident was reported, wildlife officials said earlier this week.
State wildlife officials decided to capture P-22s earlier this month after a series of worrisome problems.
He was showing increasing “signs of stress,” including three dog attacks in a month and multiple near encounters with people walking in Los Feliz and Silver Lake. The mountain lion killed a Chihuahua on its leash near Hollywood Lake in November.
“It was a difficult decision — it was the right decision,” said Beth Pratt, the California regional director of the National Wildlife Federation. “This animal doesn’t deserve to suffer.”
P-22 was believed to be around 12 years old, geriatric by wild mountain lion standards. Some experts said age may have been a factor in his deteriorating condition.
Veterinarian Winston Vickers of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center said last week he’s observed changes in mountain lion behavior as they age and develop age-related problems, including dental problems and difficulty fighting their normal prey.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen video of a mountain lion attacking a deer, but it’s a tough 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 doctor from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will perform a post-mortem, said senior wildlife veterinarian Deana Clifford. After his death, P-22 will contribute to several research studies on genetics, reproduction and health in mountain lions, she said.
Then P-22’s body is sent to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County, where it 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 ending to a life well-lived,” Clifford said.