Updated on April 24, 2024

Have you heard the story of the celebrity who lived rent-free in the Hollywood Hills? For 10 years, he resided in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. He was quite elusive, only allowing the rare photograph to be taken under the cover of night. Unlike some Hollywood stars, he didn’t let fame get to his head. In fact, it’s unlikely he knew he was beloved by thousands worldwide. His name was P-22, and he was L.A.’s most famous mountain lion.

P-22’s claim to fame was his incredible journey. He was first documented on a Griffith Park Connectivity Study trail camera in 2012. He likely crossed major L.A. highways, U.S. Route 405 and U.S. Route 101 to end up in the 9 square miles of Griffith Park — a journey many mountain lions have died trying to complete. P-22’s unbelievable life in the Hollywood Hills made him a revered icon for urban wildlife conservation, a legacy that endures after his death in 2022.


Closeup look at P-22, a famous mountain lion that lived in L.A. His face is square to the camera and it's dark behind him.

P-22, while often illusive, was sometimes spotted on trail cams throughout Griffith Park.


Save LA Cougars

Though P-22 made an impression on many, one of his advocates was Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation.

“P-22 had me at hello,” Pratt said. “After I read the first story about this young male cougar, I developed a ‘conservation crush.’”

Pratt went so far as nicknaming P-22 the “Brad Pitt of the cougar world,” for his good looks and adoring fans all over the world.

“But it wasn’t P-22’s dreamy looks alone that captivated me,” Pratt said. “It was the improbability of his existence — his continued survival in the second largest city in the United States — that elicited equal doses of profound awe and sadness in me.”

She went on to create the #SaveLACougars campaign, an effort to build the world’s largest wildlife crossing over Highway 101, to help animals safely travel through the city.


A yellow hardhat with #SAVELACOUGARS on it with a silhouette of a cougar above the wording.

A hardhat for the #SaveLACougars wildlife crossing project.


P-22’s story featured on Protecting the Wild

In the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild episode, “Urban Wildlife,” Pratt met with Co-Host Peter Gros to tell the story of P-22 and the work of #SaveLACougars. Peter also saw the construction site of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, scheduled to be completed by early 2026.

Despite the urban landscape of Los Angeles, Pratt said, “there’s still a lot of green space — all we need to do is connect it.” The wildlife crossing will serve as that connector with protected space on either side for animals to call home.

“When the number one threat to wildlife worldwide is a loss of habitat, and we are paving over more and more of their homes every day, we are going to have to coexist,” Pratt said. “We need wildlife as much as they need us.”


A woman with blond hair and wearing a black shirt and shorts, sitting on a stool in a park. She is smiling towards a camera as she prepares to be filmed for an interview.

Beth Pratt, donning her favorite P-22 shirt, on the set of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild.


Why we need wildlife crossings

Before Pratt became P-22’s biggest fan, she spent decades working in the remote wilderness in places such as Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks.

“When I was coming up in conservation decades ago, the dominant paradigm was, you put the people here, set aside some habitat for wildlife over here and call it a day for saving animals,” Pratt said.

“But we now know islands of habitat don’t work,” Pratt said. “Even in the best protected places on the planet, like a Yosemite, wildlife is still struggling because it doesn’t recognize park boundaries.”

Wildlife needs to be able to travel to find food, mates and shelter. A freeway limits their ability to survive.

“You read heartbreaking stories of deer traveling their historic migration path, for example, and one year coming across a new road or fence blocking it and perishing as a result. Wildlife crossings provide that vital connection over human obstacles,” Pratt said.

Despite P-22’s remarkable feat, his Griffith Park habitat never allowed him to truly be a mountain lion.

“Being trapped on an island of wilderness surrounded by roads and development, he was unable to escape, doomed to live out his days a lonely bachelor,” Pratt said. “His whole life, he suffered the consequences of trying to survive in unconnected space, right to the end when being hit by a car led to his tragic end.”


Three people standing on the top of a hill, looking down to a highway and the end of the grassy hill.

David and Beth of NWF and Peter Gros checking out the future site of a wildlife crossing over a busy L.A. highway.


How to coexist with wildlife in urban areas

Wildlife crossings create opportunities for animals, like mountain lions, to expand their habitat and increase their chance for survival. But most people probably won’t invite a mountain lion to their backyard. So, how do we share our cities?

“The good news is, it’s easy to coexist with wildlife large and small — not without its challenges — but taking some simple steps can help both people and wildlife live together harmoniously,” Pratt said.

Here are some ways to make your area safer for wildlife:

  • Learn more about animal behavior. Predators, such as coyotes, cougars and bears, want to avoid conflict with us just as much as we want to avoid conflict with them. Get tips from Project Coyote, the Cougar Conservancy or your state’s wildlife agency.
  • Turn off your lights at night. Artificial light interrupts natural instincts for animals and plants, as light is a signal to species for when it’s time to hunt or mate.
  • Grow native plants. Start your own wildlife garden to provide habitat for pollinators.
  • Avoid using rat poisons or herbicides as they can be harmful to wildlife.
  • If you happen upon injured wildlife, don’t touch it. Call a local wildlife rescue group to take care of the animal.

Cougar, mountain lion, panther … no matter what you call them, they’re all the same species. Learn more about this big cat.


A young cougar looking at the camera, with its mouth open as if it's meowing.

National Park Service researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains in June 2016. The kitten in this is P-49.


Why humans need wildlife

“We need wildlife in our lives, for both our physical and mental health,” Pratt said. “We live on the same planet they do and are part of the same ecosystems. You start pulling any plant or animal out of the equation, and it can also impact us.”

Yes, this includes animals you may not care for, like snakes. Every animal plays an important role in the ecosystem. “I tell people, you would not want a world without snakes — the rodent populations would be out of control.”

Aside from the ecological importance of coexistence, Pratt believes a connection to the wild world is essential to fundamental human health.

“I see the joy P-22 brought Los Angeles, knowing such a magnificent creature lived among them,” Pratt said.

It’s something she continues to experience at the annual P-22 Day Festival held in the mountain lion’s former home of Griffith Park. Wildlife enthusiasts gather to celebrate P-22’s legacy and connect with the intersection of the urban and natural worlds.


Man on stag holding a microphone. Behind him is a large image of a cougar and it says "Peace Love P-22."

Peter Gros on stage at the P-22 memorial in 2023.


At the first P-22 Day, a group of second grade students read letters to the mountain lion. The students lived in an impoverished area, and many came from undocumented families. Sometimes the students didn’t have enough food to eat. And sometimes they’d go home not knowing if their parents would be deported.

“One little boy read in his letter to P-22, ‘I’m so sorry you are sad and lonely and scared. I have been there before,’” Pratt said. “I started crying when he read that. And I realized that for him, having a connection to P-22 helped him cope with problems just like I had as a kid.”

Pratt said she believes that access to wildlife, especially in cities, is a fundamental human right.

“This connection provides us all with a psychological safety in some respects,” Pratt said. “We owe these kids, especially, that connection.”

If you live in an urban area, you can still experience a connection with wildlife. Learn from Co-Host Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, who spent her childhood in big cities, how to make the most of urban green spaces.


Watch Pratt on the Protecting the Wild episode, “Urban Wildlife,” to hear more about coexistence with cougars. Plus, learn from mountain lion experts.


Did you know L.A. isn’t the only area developing wildlife crossings for cougars? Discover how Floridians are “living wildly” with Florida panthers and sharing the road with these big cats.

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