When the puma known as P-22 made headlines a month ago for snatching a pet Chihuahua off his leash on a post-sundown walk, a lot of people were concerned the mountain lion would be put down or hunted in retaliation.
The dog’s owner admitted he was distraught, but also pleaded with the public not to harm the puma, who after all was just being a cat. P-22 didn’t know pet dogs are off-limits, and he showed no aggression toward the other dog or the man walking the pooches. He was hunting after dark, like pumas do.
Sadly, P-22 is now dead, although there does not appear to be a connection to the Chihuahua incident.
Late on Monday morning, Sarah Picchi of Los Feliz opened her door to find fish and wildlife officers on her property. She knew why they were there, as she’d spotted the cougar in her backyard.
“Of course, I knew it was P-22 because I’ve been following the story,” she told the Associated Press.
P-22, who was described by the National Park Service as “a remarkably old cat in the wild” at 12 years old, was showing signs of distress. Veterinarians who have been tracking and protecting California cougars for 20 years tranquilized P-22 and gave him a veterinary examination after receiving reports that he may have been hit by a car on Sunday night.
Unfortunately it looks like he was indeed hit. The beloved mountain lion, who had famously crossed his state’s busiest highways in his younger days to find a range of his own, suffered a skull fracture, an unnamed skin condition and signs of kidney and liver disease.
Veterinarians said the only option, at his advanced age and in his condition, was to place him in a sanctuary where he could be constantly monitored and cared for, but that’s a dicey proposition for a proud animal who spent his entire life fending for himself, hunting and going where he pleased. P-22 would not have recovered, they said, and would have had poor quality of life even if he lived out his remaining days in captivity.
Ultimately they made the difficult decision to euthanize him this week.
Again, there’s no indication any of the misfortune to befall P-22 had anything to do with the Chihuahua incident, although the driver who hit him without reporting the injury made a selfish choice. It’s not clear if earlier treatment could have saved P-22, but it may have saved him significant suffering.
The famous cat, who called some of Los Angeles’ most well-known neighborhoods home, leaves behind a legacy that includes books and documentaries on his incredible life and journey from southern California to his eventual home in LA. Rest in peace, big guy.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more photos and a link to the National Park Service’s tribute to P-22.
Wetumpka will pay the price for petty politics
Reader Leah of Catwoods fame brought our attention to this excellent analysis of the situation in Wetumpka, a town in her home state of Alabama that is now best known for extremely aggressive police officers arresting two women for the “crime” of managing a cat colony.
The women, Beverly Roberts and Mary Alston, were found guilty of two misdemeanors each earlier this week in Wetumpka municipal court. (They also spoke to PITB on Friday, discussing their plans to appeal and their worries about the health and safety of the colony cats.)
The column, by Alabama Political Reporter’s Josh Moon, echoes our own thoughts on the scandal, pointing out the petty nature of the arrests and prosecution:
It’s so utterly absurd. And to be quite honest, it reeks of small town politics. It smells suspiciously like some thin-skinned city official got peeved because some ladies had the gall to question him, and he decided to flex a little muscle, show those little gals where the power lies.
And, lo and behold, in court on Tuesday, one major line of questioning revolved around whether Mayor Jerry Willis had told Wetumpka PD to arrest one of the cat ladies, because she had been continuously critical of the city’s animal control policies and practices. Willis, under oath, denied ordering her arrest. Testimony from a lieutenant from Wetumpka PD sure seemed to indicate that some sort of directive had come from the mayor’s office.
Regardless, bodycam footage of the cops’ interactions with Roberts and Alston show an impressive response – three cop cars and four officers – to a call about a lady possibly feeding cats. On a roadside. With no businesses nearby. Near a wooded area. With plenty of space off to the side so traffic wasn’t impeded. On public property.
As we did, Moon noted Alston and Roberts weren’t breaking any laws by being on public property, and there are no laws in Wetumpka prohibiting feeding stray cats.
And it’s not about feeding stray cats, as Willis claimed in his court testimony. Alston and Roberts were providing a service to Wetumpka, at their own expense, because they love animals. Trap, neuter, return is a proven process that limits and ultimately reduces stray cat populations, and does so in a humane way. Prohibiting the women from managing the cat colony will only make the problem worse as the felines mate and stray further afield looking for food, a fact that Willis and town officials don’t seem to appreciate.
A city with a decent government would have worked with Alston and Roberts. It would have given them awards for spending their days performing this public service for free. It would have explored ways to expand the very good thing they were doing.
He quoted attorney Terry Luck, who represented the women, saying “Wetumpka is a laughingstock” for arresting Alston and Roberts, blatantly lying about the reasons and the sequence of events leading up to the arrests, and doubling down on prosecuting them even as the story spread nationally and people understandably shook their heads in disbelief at the insanity of it all.
The small-town trial, Moon noted, was covered by reporters from across the state and from national media outlets. Body camera footage of the arrests fueled public outrage, as officers treated Alston and Roberts like hardened criminals and even laughed at the idea that they were “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies.” That’s not what you want your town to be known for.
“The city will pay a hefty price for the bad PR,” Moon wrote. “And the whole time, doing the right thing was free.”
Tribute to P-22
We leave you now with some photos and images that can only hint at how much P-22, the lion of Hollywood, was beloved by the people of LA. He was the subject of at least four books, two documentary movies, various festivals and fundraisers for protecting his kind, and his face graces innumerable posters, t-shirts and pins. Here’s how the National Park Service described the big guy:
Likely born in the Santa Monica Mountains as the son of adult male P-1, he somehow found his way to his tiny, nine-square-mile home in Griffith Park, separated from the Santa Monicas by the 101 and 405, two of the busiest freeways in the world. Defying expectations, he persisted for more than 10 years in the smallest home range that has ever been recorded for an adult male mountain lion.
Although he made frequent appearances on the streets of the Hollywood Hills and even, more recently, of the Silver Lake neighborhood, he was also clearly a wild cat, doing so mostly late at night, and subsisting largely on natural prey such as deer and coyotes.
In the end, he found his way into many Angelenos’ hearts and home surveillance camera footage.