One of my favorite places in Los Angeles was a headline story this week and that story was about Griffith Park’s famous resident, P22. Many Angelenos know who P22 is, but most who don’t live in the area, probably don’t. Maybe you’re getting some news out there on this P22. Who is P22 and what does Griffith Park have to do with it? Why was it breaking news in Los Angeles? Well, let me share a bit about Griffith Park’s famous resident, P22.
Back in July of 2011, a group of wildlife biologists called the Griffith Park Connectivity Study began a project in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. The project was to find out if Griffith Park was somewhat of an island. The project included setting up camera traps in the park to record a wide range of mammals (deer, coyotes, etc) entering and exiting the park. Animals who are searching for mates and adequate food.
Cameras were also placed in open spaces on the edge of the 101 freeway. Placing the cameras by the highway was to figure out what type of wildlife activity was found at the edge of these open spaces.
The 2 sets of cameras were placed to answer the questions of whether wildlife were approaching the edge of Griffith Park by corridors, and are they using the overpasses or tunnels? What type of animals are they?
On the night of February 12, 2012, they discovered that Griffith Park was not an island after all! Their video cameras captured a mountain lion! Which was a big surprise to this team of biologists. They were expecting bobcats and maybe gray foxes, but recording a mountain lion was not what they expected. That’s because mountain lions are known to live in a much larger habitat than Griffith Park.
This mountain lion somehow crossed more than one highway to get to Griffith Park. There have been reports that there were 2 other mountain lions that have been killed trying to cross the 405 freeway. This mountain lion succeeded crossing a very big highway.
This Mountain lion is considered a near urban carnivore because it’s behavior isn’t different from the more rural mountain lions in, say, Yosemite. Mountain lions only pass through residential areas out of necessity or desperation to leave a territory of a larger male who’s searching for a mate. They usually stay in remote areas of urban parks and always hunt deer.
So, that’s why finding a mountain lion in Griffith Park was so unlikely. This park is small and isolated from known mountain lion territories.
Eventually Griffith Park’s recent biggest discovery was captured, given a collar and a now has a name. In early 2012, this group of wildlife biologists finally got a hold of the mountain lion, tagged and gave him the name Puma 22 or now famously called P22. Puma 22 represents the 22nd mountain lion the Santa Monica Mountains National Park Service biologists have captured. He was immediately released back in Griffith Park where he now calls home.
After genetic testing and studies, it was verified that P22 did indeed cross 2 huge highways, the 405 and 101 freeways to get to his new home of Griffith Park. He uses natural areas, he stays in remote and inaccessible spots during the day. He travels mostly at night and feeds on deer in Griffith Park.
Recent breaking news was about P22 roaming out of Griffith Park and hiding out under a house in a nearby neighboorhood of Los Feliz. A worker discovered him and the owners of the home immediately called authorities.
Wildlife officials pelted tennis balls and bean bags at him to try to get him to move. He didnt budge. They didn’t want to dart him with tranquilizers, because the mountain lion wasn’t in a good position for them to hit him in the right spot. So, they decided to wait it out.
Media got wind of the story and showed up to the house and of course, it was all over the news. Authorities finally made the media leave in the evening, to make it quiet for P22. The next morning they announced that P22 did finally leave overnight.
I’m very happy about how the wildlife officials handled it. I was afraid it was going to be a circus type of event. For now, alls well that ends well. In fact, officials were able to track him back inside of Griffith Park. They wouldn’t say exactly where he was and that’s so P22 could have his privacy.
So why I am so interested in P22? Well, let me take you back to 2012. It was April and it was Spring Break for my daughter. She was 11 years old at the time. She was already a seasoned hiker, because we hike often. So during Spring Break on a Saturday, after a cool rainstorm, we decided to go for a hike in Griffith Park.
Griffith Park gets pretty busy on the weekends, especially around Spring Break. So, we decided to hike in a quieter area than the normal hiking spots in the park. That area was on the northeast side of the park. Just southwest of Travel Town Museum. This hiking and horseback area is mostly visited by locals. It’s considered to be off the beaten path.
We decided to hike a little trail that was an offshoot of a main trail. The grass was real green and real high around the trail. We had to bushwhack some. The trail was still a little muddy from the rain from the night before. The trail was mostly quiet too.
We did run into 2 gentlemen. They were on the trail, coming towards us. They greeted my husband, who was in the front, my daughter was behind him, and I followed behind her. That’s how we always hike, in case there were coyotes around.
The men then saw me and my daughter and greeted us. They looked a little alarmed when they saw my daughter and quickly said to us, “you might want to turn back, there’s a dead animal further up on the trail and its pretty ugly”. We smiled and said “thanks, we’ll be fine”.
We hike so much and have seen many dead animals, it’s usually no big deal. So, we continued to hike further for about 15 minutes, then that’s when we see part of an animal. It was a part of a big deer. We then stumbled across the organs of the deer, spread out all over. I quickly had to cover my daughter’s eyes. It was gruesome! We then see the back of the deer’s body. This deer was torn up in shreds. It looked like the kill was pretty fresh, too.
It was one of the grossest things we’ve ever seen on a trail, leave alone Griffith Park. We tried to get our daughter to look away from the scene, but she saw everything. My husband said immediately, “something big attacked that deer!” and we thought, only a mountain lion could do that, but there’s no way. There aren’t mountain lions in Griffith Park. We told everyone our story about the deer, because it was an unbelievable blood bath.
Well guess what…a few months later, on the news, yep, there it was, the report about a mountain lion residing in Griffith Park. When my husband and I saw the report on TV, we both gasped! What we saw that spring day was the work of P22. It was the aftermath of P22’s hunt from the night before, maybe even just hours before. We saw evidence of P22, even before it was reported.
That’s why I’m sharing with you the story of P22. I feel a little connected to this mountain lion. Though, my story sounds a little scary, it truly is just nature. P22 was nowhere near us when we were hiking. He was long gone. He was doing what he does to survive and we happened to stumble across the scene. It probably was a freak scene that we witnessed too. He probably hunts nowhere near trails, but happened to do so this time.
Please do enjoy Griffith Park, like we do. Don’t feel hesitant to hike in Griffith Park, but always hike in pairs or in a group. Should you see wildlife, give them space. They don’t want to bother you and they don’t want to be bothered either. It’s nature, even though P22 is a bit of a freak of nature. Eventually, there may be other freaks of nature, that’ll end up being, well, natural.