Lions And Zoos

The lonely puma who became a Hollywood star | Nature | News

FATAL ATTRACTION: P-22 became a Hollywood hero, but cougars are known to kill (Image: STEVE WINTER/National Geographic)

Bears and wolves could once again roam remote parts of Britain, if the growing rewilding campaign is successful. It aims to restore ancient natural habitats and reintroduce species that have long been hunted on our coasts.

Not everyone is happy living alongside the carnivorous appetites, mighty jaws and deadly claws of apex predators. Many frown upon putting their children, pets and farm animals at risk in an effort to reverse biodiversity loss. But if you’re worried about reintroducing beasts of prey to your local woods, maybe you should try living on my street, where a mountain lion regularly prowls at night.

He feasts on deer and coyotes, nibbles on opossums and raccoons, and could easily make a meal of any human if he wanted.

But I don’t live in the wilderness of the Serengeti or the heat of the Kalahari.

My home is in Hollywood, California, in the foothills of the peak where the famous Hollywood sign stands, a stone’s throw from Universal Studios and Warner Bros.

It’s a verdant stretch of the Hollywood Hills that backs onto the sprawling wilderness of Griffith Park: one of America’s largest urban parks, teeming with wildlife. It is here that a male cougar has taken up residence for ten years.

California’s mountain lions, also called pumas and cougars, have attacked and killed humans, maimed cyclists and ambushed stray pets. In the past three years, five children under the age of six have been assaulted. In much of America, the intrusion of wild animals is feared and reviled. Bears that enter residential areas are routinely trapped and relocated or killed. Wild wolves are often shot on sight.

In the UK, according to a poll, a third of people would reintroduce lynx and wolves and a quarter would like to bring back bears – presumably meaning that two thirds and three quarters respectively are against such measures.

But in Hollywood, the local (and fairly deadly) mountain lion, known as P-22 by scientists who tagged and tracked him constantly, is a beloved star.

Residents speak of P-22 with affection and admiration: a beautiful beast at home in its natural habitat, rubbing shoulders with locals whose homes have entered what has been mountain lion territory since the last Ice Age ago. over 11,000 years.

“It’s an honor in this neighborhood to be visited by P-22,” says Hollywood resident KathyValentino.

“We love that we can live here and have these beautiful animals among us.”

Christine Rothman agrees: “We love it.”

wildlife artist impression p-22 cougars

Artist’s impression of the wildlife overpass that will reconnect P-22 to other mountain lions (Picture : )

While Erin Ahern Lilly writes on P-22’s Facebook page, which has 16,000 followers, “Always out there sexy as hell,” P-22 also has her own clothing line with t-shirts, onesies, sweaters and stuffed animals, and is celebrated in documentaries and books.

He thrives in the Hollywood Hills, feasting on an assortment of wildlife served by Griffith Park: an all-you-can-eat mule deer buffet – his favorite – along with coyote, raccoon, gray fox, opossum, skunk, rats and also mouse over the menu. But P-22 is alone. It braved the deadly rush of two ten-lane freeways to travel from the Santa Monica Mountains in the northwest to the Hollywood Hills in the east, where it is now landlocked on three sides by freeways, and on the fourth by the city of Los Angeles.

Yet after ten years, no other puma has managed to reach it safely: 12 have been killed trying to cross highways since 2002.

“He’s the Brad Pitt of the cougar world,” says Beth Pratt, who leads the National Wildlife Federation’s nonprofit Campaign to Save Cougars.

“He’s handsome, has aged well, but struggles with his love life.” But lion-loving locals have come up with a solution: Construction begins next month on a £64million wildlife overpass on the Ventura Highway, linking the Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains, hopefully bringing together -le, the P-22 with numerous California mountain lions estimated at 1,500 in the wild. It’s further proof of how the people of Los Angeles have adopted the dangerous predator among them.

“In any other state, this cat would have been abducted or killed immediately upon detection,” says Pratt, who sports a P-22 tattoo on his left arm.

“Here we live with it and celebrate it.”

Do not imagine that P-22 is a small feline resembling a bobcat or a lynx. The “P” stands for “puma” and the puma is the fourth largest feline in the world. Adults weigh over 14 stone and sprint at 40 mph.

They regularly span a territory of 200 square miles, but P-22 has made the eight square miles of Griffith Park his personal stronghold.

Since being tagged in 2012, P-22 has become one of Hollywood’s most searched-for celebrities, with sightings reported more eagerly than bumping into Angelina Jolie at the supermarket.

Although the paparazzi aren’t chasing him, P-22 is now arguably Hollywood’s most photographed star, appearing on local residents’ security cameras nearly every night.

He’s passed my house three times in the last month, most likely on his way to hunt in the steep hills above Warner Bros. studios, where packs of wild coyotes often congregate at night in what’s called Coyote Canyon. Locals watching from their hilltop windows have seen him rip apart more than one hapless coyote in the dawn light.

He cruises the Hollywood Hills like a celebrity with a full backstage pass: passing the

Hollywood sign, lounging on a neighbor’s porch, nonchalantly jumping garden walls and balancing on a garden fence just last week.

p-22 cougars

FAME AND FORTUNE: P-22 has its own toys, T-shirts and Facebook page (Picture : )

P-22 was seen hunting mule deer at Forest Lawn celebrity cemetery, where Bette Davis and Carrie Fisher are buried, and drinking before dawn from the cool waters of Lake Hollywood Reservoir.

CCTV showed him wandering around the sprawling Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park like a starving diner perusing a delicatessen’s meat selection. Many P-22 fans refused to believe him when zookeepers accused him of running off with a koala – until DNA evidence placed P-22 in the koala enclosure.

“If they didn’t want their koala eaten, they should have taken better care of it,” says Los Angeles author and P-22 fan Simon Stephenson.

In Britain, where the last brown bear was killed in the Middle Ages and wolves were hunted to extinction in the 18th century, many have embraced the rewilding movement, but are drawing the land divide with large predators.

Tensions are rising in rural Scotland where government-funded schemes have successfully reintroduced lost species including beavers, golden eagles and sea eagles, and top predators may not be far behind .

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Farmers are already worried about beavers damaging farmland and eagles attacking lambs – and who knows what carnage wolves and bears might inflict?

“Britain has made great strides in rewilding, but P-22 has shown that people can live in harmony with nature,” says Pratt. “I can’t say he won’t ever attack anyone, but mountain lion attacks are incredibly rare, as long as they’re treated with respect.”

Back in Hollywood, P-22 marks his territory as he goes, leaving deep paw scratches in the trees, piles of leaves covered in his scent, and unleashing the occasional roar into the night, hoping for the answer of a lion. None ever come.

But perhaps soon, with the construction of the freeway overpass for wildlife, the P-22 may eventually find a mate, and the people of Los Angeles may one day hear the crackle of tiny paws outside their megamansions.