P-22, as he’s known to the scientists who study him, is the star of two documentary movies, four books and innumerable photos captured by trail cameras, surveillance stills and the few people lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him.
The 12-year-old mountain lion is instantly recognizable by his radio collar and his derpy, wide-eyed look.
But he’s also a predator, as the National Park Service reminded the public on Monday when it confirmed P-22 was indeed the puma who stalked a dog walker accompanying two pooches on Nov. 9. P-22 struck in full darkness about 90 minutes after sundown, snatched one of the unfortunate pet dogs and was bolting away before the walker even had time to react.
The incident was captured by a security camera in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, and grainy video shows P-22 leaping out of a bush and pouncing on a chihuahua named Piper. After consulting GPS data from the radio collar and reviewing the surveillance footage, the National Park Service confirmed it was the famous wild cat.
“They are stealth predators,” the National Wildlife Federation’s Beth Pratt told the LA Times. “They’re called ‘ghost cats’ for a reason. This is how they get their prey. It’s not like the vision of lions in Africa that chase down their prey on the plains.”
While noting people are “more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion,” Pratt warned that small pets can resemble the large feline’s natural prey. While P-22 usually hunts deer and foxes near Griffith Park in Hollywood Hills, pumas are also known to take down smaller prey and are opportunistic predators like their house cat and big cat cousins. (Despite their size, pumas — known as mountain lions, cougars and catamounts among many other names — are not considered true “big cats.”)
“It’s sad that P-22 killed a beloved pet,” Pratt told the Times. “But he doesn’t know that. He was just being a mountain lion.”
Daniel Jiminez, Piper’s owner, told Los Angeles’ KTLA that he and his wife are “devastated at the loss of our little dog.”
He said he thought his dog walker was joking when, while out celebrating his daughter’s birthday, he received a text from the walker saying Piper had been taken by a mountain lion. The Jiminez family adopted Piper in 2014.
Jiminez says he wants people to know what happened so they’re vigilant when walking their dogs in the area.
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to P-22,” said Jimenez. “I just want people to be safe out there so that nothing like this happens again.”
Top image credit NPS.gov