LOS ANGELES -- The famous Hollywood-roaming mountain lion known as P-22 is drastically underweight and was probably struck and injured by a car, wildlife experts who conducted a health examination on the big cat said Tuesday.
The male cougar, whose killing of a leashed dog has raised concerns about its behavior, probably won't be released back into the wild and could be sent to an animal sanctuary or euthanized, depending on its health, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
“Nobody is taking that kind of decision lightly,” spokesperson Jordan Traverso said during a videoconference. He added the agency understands “the importance of this animal to the community and to California," and “we recognize the sadness of it."
P-22 was captured and tranquilized on Monday in the trendy Los Feliz neighborhood near his usual haunt of Griffith Park, an island of wilderness and picnic areas in the midst of the Los Angeles urban sprawl.
State and federal wildlife officials announced last week that they were concerned the aging cat “may be exhibiting signs of distress” due in part to aging, noting the animal needed to be studied to determine what steps to take.
Tuesday's examination found the cat had an eye injury, probably received from being hit by a car and more tests would be conducted to determine if the animal suffered additional head trauma, said Deana Clifford, the senior wildlife veterinarian with the department.
A computerized tomography scan is scheduled for later this week to look into other possible chronic health issues that may have caused his decline, Clifford said.
P-22 was first captured in 2012 and fitted with a GPS tracking collar as part of a National Park Service study. The cougar is regularly recorded on security cameras strolling through residential areas near Griffith Park.
P-22 is believed to be about 12 years old, making him the oldest Southern California cougar currently being studied. Most mountain lions live about a decade.
“This is an old cat, and old cats get old-cat diseases,” Clifford said. “Any of us who had cats at home have seen this."
“We’re working through all of those issues and we’ll take a totality of the findings into account to try to make the best decision we can for the cat,” she said.
P-22 usually hunts deer and coyotes, but in November the National Park Service confirmed that the cougar had attacked and killed a Chihuahua mix that was being walked in the narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills.
The cougar also is suspected of attacking another Chihuahua in the Silver Lake neighborhood this month.
P-22 has lived much of his life in Griffith Park, crossing two major freeways to get there. He was the face of the campaign to build a wildlife crossing over a Los Angeles-area freeway to give big cats, coyotes, deer and other wildlife a safe path to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, where they have room to roam.
Ground was broken this year on the bridge, which will stretch 200 feet (some 60 meters) over U.S. 101. Construction is expected to be completed by early 2025.