A mountain lion that has become a local celebrity in the hills of Los Angeles has been euthanized after dangerous changes in his behavior led to examinations that revealed worsening health and injuries likely caused by a car.
Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the decision to euthanize the big cat, known as P-22, was made after veterinarians determined it had a skull fracture and chronic illnesses including a skin infection and diseases of the kidneys and liver.
"His prognosis was deemed poor," said the agency’s director, Chuck Bonham, who fought back tears during a news conference announcing the cougar’s death. "This really hurts...it’s been an incredibly difficult several days."
P-22 had been tranquilized earlier this week in the backyard of a Los Feliz neighborhood near Griffith Park after authorities located the animal using its GPS connected collar following an anonymous report that the big cat had been hit by a car.
"CDFW veterinarians and NPS biologists will determine the best next steps for the animal while also prioritizing the safety of the surrounding communities," California fish and wildlife authorities said at the time of the capture.
State authorities determined that the only likely options were euthanasia or confinement in an animal sanctuary — a difficult prospect for a wild lion.
Officials said that the mountain lion, who was believed to be 12-years old which is longer than most wild male mountain lions live, lost about 20% of his body weight and was diagnosed with kidney failure, liver disease, heart disease, and an "uncommon parasitic infection."
"I had moments of hope," Chuck Bonham, Director of California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, said. "We pulled out all the stops and there were moments when I thought we would make it."
P-22, born in the western Santa Monica Mountains, became a common sighting in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles over the years and was affectionately known as "Hollywood Cat" despite being involved in multiple attacks on small dogs in the area.
The animal became the face of the campaign to build a wildlife crossing over a Los Angeles-area freeway to give mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, deer and other animals a safe path between the nearby Santa Monica Mountains and wildlands to the north.
"P-22’s survival on an island of wilderness in the heart of Los Angeles captivated people around the world and revitalized efforts to protect our diverse native species and ecosystems," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.