It’s been almost a month since the famed Griffith Park mountain lion, P-22, was euthanized at the San Diego Zoo following an intensive health evaluation. The lion was discovered over 10 years ago by biologist Miguel Ordeñana and became even more famous after a photo was taken by Steve Winter, capturing P-22 as he prowled through the night with the Hollywood Sign aglow in the background.
P-22’s story stole the hearts of millions, as no other mountain lion had endured the 50 mile trek from the Santa Monica mountains, across two of the busiest highways, the 101 and 405, to settle down into Griffith Park, like he did. The National Park Service and local wildlife specialists have been keeping tabs on him ever since his discovery in 2012.
His incredible journey really resonated with Beth Pratt, the Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) California Region. Pratt and her team were instrumental in sharing the lion’s story with the world through their #SaveLAcougars campaign and rounding up funding for the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. Once built, the crossing will be the largest in the world. Ultimately, P-22 became the mascot and flagship species of urban wildlife, showcasing the struggles that mountains lions face, not only in California, but across the nation as they live alongside with humans throughout out their range.
Burbank resident, Korinna Domingo, is the Director of Programs at the National Wildlife Federation with Beth Pratt, and is also the Director and Founder of the Cougar Conservancy. Domingo worked closely with the #SaveLAcougars campaign through education and outreach on wildlife coexistence. Domingo expressed her full support of wildlife officials capturing P-22 for the assessment and knew that he had the best veterinarians in the world looking after him. “I trusted wholeheartedly in their ability to make a decision that was based in the best available science as well as ethics,” said Domingo.
Not only did the assessment reveal that P-22 was severely underweight but he also had stage two kidney failure, heart disease, head and eye trauma, and a hernia that was causing his organs to fill into his chest cavity. On top of all that, his coat was affected by a parasitic skin disease, most likely transmitted from domestic house cats. The head and eye injury were evident that P-22 succumbed to something he had been trying to avoid while living in this urban jungle: a vehicle collision.
In December, Domingo and Pratt attended the 15th meeting of the UN Convention of Biodiversity (COP15) in Montreal Canada, where they carried around a cardboard likeness of P-22 and were there on a national stage representing California as the first and only state delegation at COP. In their Montreal hotel room, the call came in about the P-22 capture. “We got the notice that he had been captured and our entire hotel room turned into a makeshift media-room as requests for interviews poured in—all while trying to do this important work on a global scale,” said Domingo.
Domingo grew up in Burbank and did some of her undergraduate work right here in our Verdugo mountains. The trajectory of her career changed in 2016 when she learned about P-22’s story. She switched visions as a wildlife biologist studying conservation in exotic faraway places to focusing her efforts on the cougars in her own backyard. “I learned everything I could about these cats, and I continue to learn more about them every single day,” Domingo expressed. “I cared deeply about P 22, and I care deeply about cougars and the communities who live alongside them.”
While Domingo and the NWF team grieved the loss of P-22, they found themselves moved by the outpouring of love and support from the community, and decided to put together a Celebration of Life for the Hollywood icon. The California regional team as part of the #SaveLAcougars campaign is planning and hosting a ceremony for P-22 at the Greek Theatre on February 4th.
“Our work now turns to his Celebration of Life ceremony so we can all come together as a community to celebrate his life and all that he gave us,” adds Domingo. “And it doesn’t stop there. Our team will continue to ensure that the world is a kinder place for cougars and other wildlife-and that they can move safely throughout these human dominated landscapes and thrive in the wild.”
Tickets to the P-22 Celebration of Life are officially sold out, and did so in just a matter of days, crashing the Ticketmaster system- a feat only done by singer, Taylor Swift. If you didn’t get a chance to grab the tickets before they vanished, the celebration will also be live streamed through the #SaveLAcougars website at savelacougars.org where you can also subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on social media for more updates. “We look forward to celebrating with everybody both virtually and in person. It’s going to be a fantastic event,” added Domingo.
The Celebration of Life isn’t the only remembrance of P-22. Murals and community artwork has been popping up across Los Angeles, even before his passing. The #SaveLAcougars campaign partnered with 3rd Rock Hop Hop in 2021 to create a colorful and nature inspired mural, by artist Jonathan Martinez, in the city of Watts. Martinez also completed a large scale mural for students at Esperanza Elementary in Los Angeles and the latest one was just finished at Ladera Stars Academy last year. Corie Mattie is another artist who partnered with the campaign to bring a bright yellow and black P-22 mural to Silverlake where the cat was known to frequent quite often.
Burbank’s Rancho district borders Griffith Park with hiking and horse trails leading into the mountains and the Burbank Peak is a summit-like perch nesting atop a ridge as the highest point of the park. Whether or not P-22 has made his way into Burbank we are not sure, especially because we don’t know what his life was like in the years before he was collared and tracked. What we do know is that the city of Burbank is intimately connected with P-22’s story.
Domingo puts herself into the mind of the mountain lion for a moment and recounts what it must have felt like to be moving through his territory and looking down onto the vast city of Burbank, and seeing the Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains in the distance. Venturing through Burbank to the other mountains is a journey the lion may have thought about facing while being confined to Griffith Park for so long without a mate.
In August of 2022, an un-collared mountain lion was spotted in Burbank. When asked if the National Park Service should be collaring more mountain lions in the Verdugos, Domingo shared what types of data that can be collected when researching the cats. “Scientists can learn so much about landscape connectivity in the Verdugo Mountains through collaring, especially males because they are the ones that are likely to disperse. Through GPS collar data we can study how lions may specifically be moving between those mountain ranges,” said Domingo who has previously collaborated with the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy on a landscape connectivity model in using community science data and remote cameras.
With the increase of human and mountain lion interactions and the outpouring of people wanting to take action, Domingo has recently launched the new Cougar Coexistence Frequently Asked Questions document available online and soon to be published as a book. This project has been her focus for over two years and has been a collaboration between the National Wildlife Federation, the Cougar Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The FAQ was recently published on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing website and is the most extensive mountain lion resource page ever created to their knowledge. “If people are interested in learning more about how they can be better neighbors, both at home and on the trail, to not just cougars, but to other wildlife as well, they can check out this resource,” said Domingo.
Along with this resource they will be premiering 60 videos across their social media platforms over the next six months. The Coexistence FAQ project will be utilized by state agencies and even organizations in other countries have been reaching out for this information. The page covers everything from sightings and observations, regulations, policies, and law enforcement, conservation, human-cougar conflicts, and much more. Visit the FAQ page at www.101wildlifecrossing.org.