Griffith Park mountain lion gets its own festival

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Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — The National Wildlife Federation’s International Urban Wildlife Week began Oct. 17, with a weeklong series of online events culminating Oct. 24 with its annual festival honoring the mountain lion P-22 that was photographed walking at night near the famous Hollywood sign.

Earlier this month, the National Wildlife Federation announced that it engaged a team of developers to create a custom virtual platform at www.urbanwildlifeweek.org that will allow people to safely attend the free events from their homes in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year’s P-22 Day Festival in Griffith Park drew more than 8,000 people, according to organizers.

This year’s events will be open to people from throughout the world and will allow participants to create their own wildlife avatar and use it to help a virtual version of the famed mountain lion, whom biologists suspect has crossed both the San Diego (405) and Hollywood (101) freeways, organizers said.

Los Angeles-based artist Jonathan Martinez will host a tour of the new P-22 and wildlife mural dedicated to the students at Esperanza Elementary School from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 22. and at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 a screening of the film “Return to Wild America,” featuring P-22 and other animals “co-existing” in cities, will be shown.

The P-22 Day Festival begins at 11 a.m. Oct. 24, featuring an appearance at 11:30 a.m. by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will talk about his connection to wildlife and the state’s leadership in wildlife conservation efforts.

The day’s lineup also includes a message from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., along with performances by the Grammy-nominated Black Pumas at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and an appearance by actress Julia Butters of “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

According to the National Park Service, What makes P-22 especially unique is that he somehow made his way into Griffith Park, the eastern flank of the Santa Monica Mountains, from the western side, where he was born to P-1 and an unknown female lion.

That meant he likely crossed two major Los Angeles freeways, a feat many other lions have died trying to do. His presence was first documented in early 2012 by a camera trap set up by the Friends of Griffith Park.

His safe passage into life in the park is a testament to the wild spaces remaining in Los Angeles, but his story isn’t one of total success, the National Park Service’s website page devoted to P-22 says.

Griffith Park so far has proved just as much of an island of habitat as the rest of the Santa Monicas, if not more. Hemmed in by freeways and urban sprawl on all sides, it is difficult for lions to disperse and define their own territory and eventually mate.

The eight square miles of Griffith Park may be P-22’s territory, but it is sorely too small for an adult male, wildlife experts say. And as an isolated patch of habitat, it’s hard to imagine a female lion joining him any time soon.

The big cat first graced the front page of the Los Angeles Times in August 2012, shortly after he was first discovered. He has since become a sort of ambassador for urban wildlife. In January 2017, he landed on the front page again, this time with a “week in the life” feature story that shed insight into his movements and diet. 

He’s also made headlines across the city and country a few other times. In 2014, he developed a case of mange, which was successfully treated by National Park Service veterinarians. In 2015, his presence under a home in Los Feliz, a Los Angeles neighborhood adjacent to Griffith Park, became a live news event as local officials tried to get him to leave.

When the commotion died down, he left on his own in the early dark hours of the morning. And in 2016, he was suspected of killing a koala at the L.A. Zoo.

Some fan of the big cat created a P-22 Twitter page, which has 1,495 followers.