What happens to P-22 after capture? ‘No options off the table’

Sarah Picchi was on a work visit to her home in Los Feliz on Monday morning when animal rights activists buzzed her front gate with a chilling message: You have a lion in your garden.

“Of course I knew it was P-22 because I’ve been following the story,” Picchi said.

They carried the big cat, who has roamed the Los Angeles hills and become a celebrity for more than a decade, out of the muddy yard in a bright green blanket that served as a sling.

“My husband and I hope P-22 is safe,” Picchi said. “Like the rest of LA, we’re just cheering for him.”

Thus began the end of one storied chapter in the life of P-22 and the beginning of another – now uncertain.

Wildlife officials decided to capture P-22 after the 12-year-old mountain lion killed a leashed Chihuahua in the Hollywood Hills and attacked another Chihuahua in Silver Lake in November. Long wary of crowded areas, P-22 had also begun to venture further south into Silver Lake and stay there longer.

What is the condition of P-22?

The aging cougar is in stable condition and is awaiting further evaluation, officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Parks Service said Monday night.

Authorities said they received an anonymous report Sunday that P-22 had been hit by a car, but did not provide further details on his condition.

What’s the big cat’s plan?

Wildlife officials continue to evaluate P-22 at a “top-top facility,” Beth Pratt, the California regional director for the National Wildlife Federation, said Monday. She said scientists were relieved he appeared to be in stable condition, but they were still studying him.

“You have to dive a little deeper, just like you do with humans,” Pratt said. These include a CT scan and evaluation for mange and internal rodenticide damage, common ailments among Southern California’s urban cougar population.

P-22 previously survived a bout of mange after eating an animal that had ingested rat poison. The big cat appeared Wildlife camera footage looking gaunt, his tail as thin as a pipe cleaner. Biologists captured him, treated him with topical medications and vitamin K injections, and released him.

At the time, only two other cougars examined by the federal government had contracted mange, and both eventually died. But P-22 made a full recovery.

What comes after the evaluation?

What comes after P-22’s health assessment will depend in part on what biologists find. When the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said P-22 was a wanted cat, spokesman Tim Daly said, “No options are off the table.”

Authorities said in a joint statement Monday that National Park Service fish and wildlife veterinarians and biologists will “determine the best next steps for the animal while prioritizing the safety of surrounding communities.”

They didn’t say if they planned to release P-22s back into Griffith Park or elsewhere. The agencies said they had “already been in contact with leading animal care institutions and rehabilitation centers.”

It’s a tough question with no magical answers, especially when it comes to a mountain lion that’s no longer in its prime, Pratt said. She said the CDFW and NPS would consider all options, including releasing P-22s into the wild or moving them to a conservation area.

“Nobody talks about euthanasia,” Pratt said. That could change, she said, if scientists discover P-22 suffers from a “really serious medical condition” that could force a conversation about the most humane option, she said.

Wildlife veterinarian Winston Vickers of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center said he’s observed other mountain lions change their behavior as they age and suffer from problems ranging from dental problems to difficulty tackling their normal prey.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen video of a mountain lion attacking a deer, but it’s a tough experience for everyone, including the mountain lion,” Vickers said. “I mean, they have all the aches and pains and arthritis and things that we have … [and] As they age, it can become increasingly difficult to match their normal prey catch.

How did they find P-22?

P-22 may have been hit by a vehicle as many other mountain lions in California met their end. While many lions have managed to coexist close to human developments, others aren’t so lucky, Vickers said.

“When they mingle with people, especially under certain circumstances, they get the worst of the interaction,” he said.

CDFW and NPS officials had planned to set traps to catch P-22, as they had done six times previously for his biennial health screening. During these surveys, biologists also swap out P-22’s GPS tracking collar.

But the biologists found the big cat before they set any traps, and using the location signal from its GPS collar, tracked it to a Los Feliz backyard.

In a way, they were lucky: finding and capturing a wild animal with a tracking collar can be unpredictably complex, sometimes taking days or weeks.

“It’s the cat,” Pratt said in an interview prior to the P-22’s capture. “It could be in a few days or a month. It just depends on how fast the cat goes along with it.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-13/what-happens-to-p-22-after-captured-no-options-off-the-table What happens to P-22 after capture? ‘No options off the table’

Alley Einstein

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