The search for Los Angeles’ most famous wildcat is on.
Wildlife officials have said they plan to capture mountain lion P-22 after concerns arose about possible “signs of distress,” including the killing of a leashed Chihuahua last month and the attack on another Chihuahua last week.
Though the prospect of finding and capturing an animal with a tracking collar might seem simple, a wildlife expert familiar with previous efforts to track and capture mountain lions told the Times on Friday that such operations are unpredictably complex.
“It’s up to the cat,” said Beth Pratt, the National Wildlife Federation’s regional executive director for California and leader of the nonprofit campaign #SaveLACougars. “It could be in a few days or a month. It just depends on how fast the cat goes along with it.”
In other parts of the country, a common technique for capturing cougars is to use dogs to force the cat against a tree or corner it, she said.
But in Los Angeles, officials will avoid that tactic because of the possibility that the mountain lion might run into a residential area, a main street, or onto a freeway, Pratt said.
“We don’t want the OJ [Simpson freeway] P-22 chase,” she said.
Local wildlife experts use a baited cage to capture mountain lions, but it can take weeks for the cat to swallow the bait.
And just figuring out where a mountain lion might be is a big challenge, Pratt said.
P-22 wears a tracking collar, but the device runs on batteries and the real-time tracking facility would quickly deplete its power supply.
GPS collars for mountain lions in the National Park Service’s Los Angeles area study, including P-22, transmit a location ping during the day and hourly pings at night, Pratt said.
“You have to be in the right place at the right time, and mountain lions can travel up to 40 kilometers in a day,” she said.
If seekers get close enough, they could pick up the radio signal that’s also being sent by P-22’s collar, allowing them to get within 50 feet of the cat.
But mountain lions, nicknamed “ghost cats,” can be seen as introverts who don’t want to be found, Pratt said.
“They hunt by hiding,” she said. “They are extremely good at hiding. Most people never see a mountain lion [in person].”
The longtime environmentalist said Los Angeles residents should be recognized for coexisting with P-22 and generally acknowledge that his recent behavior is part of his predatory nature.
Residents should not attempt to intervene in any way or attempt to capture P-22 themselves, but if they see the mountain lion or catch it on security camera video, they should send tips to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Pratt said.
Pet owners should exercise caution and keep a close eye on their animals, she said.
Mountain lions are most active at night and it is a good precaution to bring dogs and cats indoors after dark.
Updated information on the search effort was not available Saturday from state wildlife agencies or the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-10/los-angeles-mountain-lion-p-22-capture-could-take-weeks Why capturing Los Angeles mountain lion P-22 could take weeks