In a city of celebrities, one golden-haired, well-over-six-foot mountain lion stood out. P-22 was not only an icon in Los Angeles, but his story is a miracle straight out of a Hollywood movie. He made the incredible 50-mile journey east from the Santa Monica Mountains, across the 405 and 101 freeways, more than a decade ago, and has since captivated the city. P-22 was euthanized in December due to health concerns and injuries he likely received after being hit by a car, and his memorial service was held this past Saturday at the Greek Theatre, with thousands in attendance.
The event was a celebration of P-22’s life, and a reminder of the struggle to survive in an urban landscape with an insatiable appetite for sprawl. His demise, accelerated by a speeding vehicle, is a stark reminder of the dangers of the streets for both people and animals. Speakers at the memorial included politicians, actors, artists, and indigenous elders, all of whom spoke passionately about changing this fact and touted the wildlife crossing that he inspired to save his kind from extinction.
At about 12 years old, P-22 was elderly for any mountain lion outside of captivity. But consider where he lived, and how he got there, and his longevity becomes even more impressive. His journey was difficult enough for a human in a car, and researchers have said it’s miraculous that a mountain lion made it. Though he was isolated by the city on all sides, P-22 still had admirers, including his Hollywood Hills neighbors. Alan Ruck even had a run-in with him one night, and said he had a “slow, real relaxed, sexy walk.”
In the weeks since his death, the city has debated ways to commemorate P-22, from adding his likeness to the Los Angeles flag, to erecting a life-size statue of him in Griffith Park, to giving him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But others insist the best way to honor his memory is to preserve, even expand, the dwindling wilderness in the city. Rapid urbanization has crowded out much of its ecology, and the freeways have most threatened the region’s pumas, nine of which have been killed by vehicle strikes in the last year.
The story of P-22 is a miracle, inspiring a city of millions to come together and celebrate the life of this remarkable animal. His journey to fame is a reminder of the beauty of nature, and the importance of preserving it. P-22’s legacy is a reminder that it is possible for humans and animals to peacefully coexist, and that it is our responsibility to protect our environment and the species that inhabit it.