We all knew that the day would come. The phone call. The text message. The social media post. How terrible would the news be?
“P-22 has been hit.” “P-22 was found unconscious.” “There’s no transmission signal on P-22’s collar.”
As it happened, it was a combination of forces that led to the end of an era in Griffith Park, the era of the Los Angeles’ Hollywood Mountain Lion, the death of P-22 who survived more than a decade in our urban wilderness.
As we mourned losing this big cat, people wondered how best to honor P-22, a wild animal that captivated our attention, tugged at our heartstrings and helped many understand and appreciate the diverse ecosystems that surround us here in Southern California. What should his legacy be?
Of course P-22’s story sparked the big-scale advocacy for more habitat connectivity in Southern California. He became the spokescat for the movement that culminated in last year’s groundbreaking for the Wallis Annenberg wildlife crossing in Agoura Hills — a bridge that will no doubt save countless animals’ lives from traffic deaths, but also help spread the genetic pool for critters large and small.
Other creative tributes are planned: the L.A. Philharmonic commissioned composer Adam Schoenberg to write a piece in honor of P-22; “Cool Cat” premiered at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this summer.
P-22’s legacy will be immortalized in some form in Griffith Park with statues, murals or other artworks. Upcoming children’s books, songs, poetry, etc. will help future generations learn the story of this amazing cat and his incredible journey from the Western Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park — and what his presence meant not only to the residents of Los Angeles, but people all over the world.
But for those of us who were lucky to live in the years he resided among us, P-22 can best be remembered when we hike in his paw prints, follow in the shadows where he lingered and quietly feel his ghost spirit that still inhabits the wilderness that is Griffith Park.
How best to honor the memory of P-22? Let us indeed support bridges that will keep his fellow mountain lions safe, but let’s not forget that for at least 10 years, Griffith Park sustained this big cat. Beyond playgrounds, the Hollywood Sign and golf courses, this urban wilderness provided P-22 with everything he needed: food, shelter and a territory, albeit an incredibly small one for a mountain lion.
Los Angeles, Griffith Park is our Yellowstone, our Yosemite. It deserves to be congratulated for nurturing not just one top predator for a decade, but for nurturing coyotes, deer, rabbits, toads, bobcats, plant life, along with underground critters and soaring raptors. Every single day.
Quite possibly we’ll never have another mountain lion stay in Griffith Park for as long as P-22, but there are plenty of wild animals that are worthy of our love, protection and admiration. How best to honor P-22? Let’s view Griffith Park as a true wilderness to defend and cherish.
After the passing of P-22, fourth and fifth grade students at Aragon Avenue Elementary School in Cypress Park wrote poems describing what the big cat meant to them. “They are structured poems,” writes their teacher Jane De Haven who also followed the story of P-22 very closely. The first three lines of the poem had to be a prepositional phrase showing “where,” the fourth a prepositional phrase showing “when,” the fifth line a simile and the last a title or summary of the situation. “All turned in heartfelt poems that reflect how immediate and impressive an impact our boy had on children,” writes De Haven.
Here is just a selection of the poems:
For a place
Up a rocky, spooky hill
With tangled trees growing,
Into the next day.
P-22 gazed at the city lights like a newcomer.
Watching, planning, enjoying the view!
Finding his home.
~Kimberly R., Grade 5
Reign Over LA
Along Griffith Park,
Among us roamed P-22,
Through the night he shone,
He ran like the legend he was.
He was the king of Griffith Park.
Prowling, seeking, hunting.
The undisputed monarch of a city.
~Alison H., Grade 4
Throughout the horizon,
Under the twinkling sky,
Above Griffith Park,
P-22 hikes into his mountain
Under his cave.
P-22 looks curious and strange.
He hunts like a Mayan king
And is wild like a tree.
He is a warrior as you can see.
P-22, you courageous guy
We will always love you
From day to night.
~Mia P., Grade 5
In the deep of Griffith Park,
As the moon shines on trees
Below where life crawls
Inside the dark night,
P-22 went across the stars like
An unstoppable meteor.
Seeking, prowling, hunting,
The soul of the hills and the city.
~Victor G., Grade 4
Around the forest,
Where the beast sleeps
Inside the heart of the city,
On top of a pile of dead leaves
Into the silent night.
P-22 lay down like a soul
Ascending to nirvana
Growling, breathing, stretching,
A soul at rest.
~Alexander H., Grade 4
There are currently plans underway to place a permanent P-22 monument somewhere in Griffith Park. The resolution, presented by CD 4’s Nithya Raman, instructs city staffers and the Griffith Park Advisory Board (GPAB) to make proposals within 120 days. Stay tuned for more info!
~Brenda Rees, FoGP board member