Remember those stunning photos of P-22 last year in National Geographic by photographer Steve Winter? Words like tawny and majestic come to mind. "He doesn't look like that anymore," National Park Service biologist Seth Riley says now. After the team tracking P-22 in Griffith Park saw on trail cameras that he appeared ill and scraggly, the lion was captured and found to have mange. The skin disorder has been hard on the local bobcat population, but little is known about its ultimate effects on cougars. P-22 also shows signs of ingesting a toxin, possibly the anti-coagulant in rat poison that moves up the food chain, KPCC says.
The lion was treated, given a new tracking collar and released. But this points up a truth that seemed to be overlooked in all the praise of those National Geographic photos photos and the admiration for a mountain lion somehow traveling from the western Santa Monica Mountains, across two freeways, and finding the canyons of Griffith Park. The park's area actually is pretty small, it has an urban population on all sides, and most important for P-22's future, he's the only lion there. No females. He was already spotted on cameras last month prowling in canyon neighborhoods outside the park. The odds of this ending well don't seem especially good. But for now, P-22 is back on his own.
From KPCC's story:
Despite the presence of mange and toxic chemicals in P-22, Riley said the animal still exhibits healthy behavior.
On Tuesday, Riley was tracking the mountain lion's recent movements via GPS-collar data. A series of stops displayed on his computer screen showed that P-22 had traveled throughout most of the hilly portions of Griffith Park since the capture. Riley said that he cougar's movements and feeding habits showed signs of continued health.
"He was in reasonably good shape weight-wise. He was 10 pounds less than the last time we caught him but not super-skinny, and in fact, he had a pretty full belly from a deer he had killed recently," Riley said.
The park service apparently had reporters in this week for the update on P-22. The LA Times also has a story, focusing largely on the political controversies over rat poison.
Top photo: National Park Service. Lower: Steve Winter/National Geographic