Ten years ago the celebrity mountain lion known as P-22 came down from the Santa Monica mountains, crossed the multi-lane and heavily congested 101 and 405 freeways, and took up residence in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. He lived there ever since, occasionally venturing out into the Los Feliz and Silver Lake neighborhoods. P-22 became famous when he was captured on camera by National Geographic photographer Steven Winters passing in front of the Hollywood sign in 2013. The image imprinted itself on the collective Angeleno consciousness. P-22 inspired the #SaveLACougars campaign, led by Beth Pratt, the California regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation—which organizes an annual P-22 Day Festival as part of Urban Wildlife Week. P-22 also sparked awareness of the need for wildlife corridors in urban areas, and this year, ground was broken on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. According to David Szymanski, superintendent of the National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the crossing addresses the “biggest conservation challenge facing the wildlife of the Santa Monica Mountains…isolation by roads and development.” He said that “this forward-looking project will help to end the isolation and reconnect natural habitat.”
P-22 also inspired artists. Drive down Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake and you’ll spot a large yellow mural with a black-and-white image of the famous cat’s face and the words “Peace Love & P-22.” The mural was unveiled this past year by local street artist Corie Mattie, who made it after P-22 showed up in her yard. Mattie said on an Instagram post that the cougar had “stared into my soul for a solid 30 seconds.” Angelenos have been fascinated with P-22: his visits into the city were shockingly out of place. When we sew him on the sidewalk or crossing streets, we felt that worlds had collided. His appearance sometimes also inspired awe, if not fear: P-22 was, after all, a wild animal.