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Mountain lion P-22 was severely ill before his death, necropsy says

A necropsy revealed Los Angeles' famed mountain lion P-22 was injured and suffering chronic conditions before he was euthanized.
Mountain lion P-22 was severely ill before his death, necropsy says
Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 15, 2023

P-22, the beloved Los Angeles mountain lion, was suffering from "multiple severe injuries and chronic conditions" before he was euthanized, a final necropsy found.

These impairments would have limited the big cat's ability to function in the wild and would have hurt his quality of life if placed in human care, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Park Services.

Wildlife officials captured P-22 in December after he started exhibiting changing behaviors, including attacking pet dogs and possibly a person. The mountain lion, dubbed the "King of Griffith Park," had been roaming the Hollywood Hills for more than a decade before then, but his signs of distress began after he was struck by a car near the urban park he called home.

P-22's final postmortem examination confirmed injuries consistent with the car accident, including recent head trauma and a bleeding orbital fracture with early scar tissue development.

The findings, released Wednesday, also showed P-22 had older traumatic injuries, including a diaphragmatic rupture that caused some tissue and parts of his liver to herniate and move inside his chest cavity.

Before his death, officials determined the cat was underweight, arthritic and had progressive and incurable kidney disease. The exam confirmed those findings and also found P-22 had a severe parasitic infection over his entire body caused by mange and ringworm — a first of its kind infection found in a California mountain lion.

Toxicology evidence also showed P-22 had been exposed to rodent poison, as have 96% of tested mountain lions, but he didn't show any signs of poisoning.

SEE MORE: The legacy of P-22: Hollywood's famous mountain lion

The decision to euthanize P-22 came five days after his capture and after multiple examinations and treatments. Veterinary pathologists from the San Diego Zoo, where his last living evaluation was performed, completed the postmortem examination.

"We are grateful to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Los Angeles Zoo teams," said Deana Clifford, a senior wildlife veterinarian for CDFW. "They provided excellent care for P-22 and conducted a detailed postmortem examination that shed plenty of light on this cat's condition."

P-22 lived roughly 12 years, making him one of the oldest lions to be studied by the NPS.

He was born on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains, then crossed two major Los Angeles freeways — the 405 and the 101 — to get to his Griffith Park home. It's the smallest home range ever recorded for an adult male mountain lion, and it unknowingly isolated him, impacting his ability to reproduce.

P-22 then became a local, and sometimes national, celebrity. He has his own exhibit at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, he's been in the National Geographic and there's even an annual P-22 festival in his home city.

After his death, thousands shared their thoughts and condolences, from celebrities to lawmakers to scientists.

And even though he couldn't reproduce other cubs, his choice of residence did give birth to something: Knowledge and understanding of his species.

"He helped us understand how mountain lions coexist with humans in this complex urban landscape, and his legacy will live on through our heightened awareness of how to live in harmony with wild neighbors and growing public support for wildlife crossings," said Jeff Sikich, the lead field biologist of the NPS mountain lion study.


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