'Celebration of Life' Saturday for P-22, LA's Late, Beloved Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - P-22 -- the late, beloved and resilient L.A. mountain lion who famously crossed two major freeways and became known as "The Hollywood Cat" -- will get another star turn Saturday when the National Wildlife Federation's #SaveLACougars campaign hosts a sold-out celebration of his life at the Greek Theatre.

The two-hour celebration, which will be live-streamed for the many Angelenos who couldn't snag the free tickets for the event, will feature a wide array of people who, over the years, made connections with P-22 during his years of roaming Griffith Park, where he made his home after navigating his way across the San Diego (405) and Ventura (101) freeways.

Free tickets to the event became available in early January -- shortly after P-22 was euthanized -- but were scooped up almost immediately. Those who missed out can watch, starting at noon, at https://savelacougars.org/p-22- celebration-of-life/.

While Wildlife Federation officials have not released the list of Saturday's participants, Nadia Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the group and for the event, said it will feature speakers, musical performances and video tributes.

"The people that are going to be on the stage are sort of a mix between, everything from students and teachers and principals and parents at schools that have learned about P-22 over the years ... (and) we're going to have leaders on stage that are ... setting the tone," she told City News Service.

"(There will be) musical performances, and just people who have a connection to P-22. It's going to be a mix of all of those things up on stage."

One speaker who did confirm his participation is Rep. Adam Schiff, D- Burbank -- one of a trio of local congressional representatives who called Friday for the creation of a postage stamp to honor the famous feline.

"P-22 was many things: our favorite celebrity neighbor, the occasional troublemaker, and a beloved mascot for our city," Schiff, Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, and Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, wrote in a letter to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee.

"His exploits were followed not just by ordinary community members, but he had a devoted following online, and his comings and goings were even tracked by the local news. But most of all, he was a magnificent and wild creature, who reminded us all that we are part of a natural world so much greater than ourselves. Even in Los Angeles."

They're calling for a stamp depicting P-22 in front of the Hollywood sign -- a nod to that landmark's 100th anniversary.

P-22 was euthanized Dec. 17 after being examined by wildlife officials who captured the cat following recent signs of distress, including a series of attacks on pet dogs in the area.

The lion was one of many Southland-area cats being tracked by National Park Service researchers. His exploits were documented in various media accounts, including his daring freeway crossings, hiding out under a Los Feliz home in a standoff that drew widespread attention -- and even being named a suspect in the killing of a koala at the Los Angeles Zoo.

He was believed to be about 11 or 12 years old, making him the oldest cat in the NPS' study of Southland lions. Likely born in the Santa Monica Mountains, P-22 somehow found his way to his tiny, nine-square-mile home in Griffith Park, separated from his birth area by 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.

He was initially captured and outfitted with a tracking collar in 2012. At the time of his last capture, he weighed 123 pounds. After he was captured last month, wildlife experts said P-22 had facial injuries consistent with being struck by a vehicle.

Experts ultimately made the decision to humanely euthanize the animal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where he was being treated, to spare him further suffering.

"P-22's advanced age, combined with chronic, debilitating, life- shortening conditions and the clear need for extensive long-term veterinary intervention left P-22 with no hope for a positive outcome," according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The cat's remains have since been taken to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, but exactly what will be done with them remains unknown.

Local tribal leaders -- who consider cougars to be sacred -- have objected to suggestions the lion be placed on display at the museum, arguing instead that he be buried in Griffith Park.

"Decisions regarding next steps will continue to be made together with local tribes, with more information provided as it becomes available," museum officials said in a statement in December.

The #SaveLACougars campaign is currently building the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing over the 101 Freeway in the Agoura Hills area. The project is seen as a "major and critical step" in enabling big cats and other wildlife to expand their territories -- and to do so safely, without having to cross major roads, as did P-22.

The landscaped crossing will span 10 lanes of the 101 Freeway in Liberty Canyon when completed in 2025, and 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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