One of the most remarkable wildlife stories I’ve been following recently involves a mountain lion taking up residence in Griffith Park, a 4,200 acre city park located in the middle of Los Angeles. Why is this noteworthy? This intrepid cat had to cross not only developed areas in a major urban region, but he also made it safely across the worst highway in the country—the 405. I drive on the 405 frequently and barely make it out alive in a car.
Even more extraordinary is that people are dealing with this lion as a neighbor, in contrast to most other urban areas shooting mountain lions on sight.
The park is surrounded by one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world and adjacent to many populated areas—the mountain lion, known as P-22, would only have to travel another six miles to stroll down Hollywood Boulevard. Griffith Park itself receives 10 million visitors a year who play golf, attend concerts at the Greek Theater (upcoming acts are Goyte and Crosby, Stills, and Nash), hike or camp, or play a round of golf or tennis.
I recently visited Griffith Park to check out P-22’s new home. This is where James Dean filmed Rebel Without a Cause, so his choice of residence seems appropriate given his own rebel status. I also found park-goers pretty intrigued by the cat’s residence. Overall, most people I speak to from LA are not fearful, but encouraged by the touch of wildness in their midst.
Indeed, the threat of being attacked by a mountain lion is remote even with P-22 in close proximity to an urban environment. Mountain lions are solitary creatures and avoid people as a rule. As Jeff Sikich, the National Park Service biologist researching P-22 recently commented in an article in the Los Angeles Times: “I think there's a greater risk from hopping in your car and driving on the 101 … than getting attacked by a lion," Sikich said.
A tip of the hat to you, P-22, for surviving the 405 and bringing some real star power to Griffith Park. And congratulations to you the people of Los Angeles, for appreciating and co-existing with this remarkable creature in your midst.