Los Angeles residents and animal lovers Sunday were mourning the death of the sprawling US city’s most famous feline, a wild mountain lion whose often erratic encounters with people prompted reflections about humanity’s connection with nature.
The beloved big cat, often sighted around the city’s Griffith Park, was euthanized Saturday, wildlife officials said.
For years, he was known to prowl around the hillside “Hollywood” sign visible around much of Los Angeles, a fitting setting for a celebrity.
It earned the nickname Hollywood Cat, but the mountain lion — estimated to be around 11 years old and described by at least one expert as “the Brad Pitt of the cougar world” — was officially named P-22.
State and federal wildlife officers decided earlier this month to capture it due to its volatile behavior, perhaps associated with being struck by a vehicle.
Veterinarians found “significant trauma” to its head, right eye and internal organs, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.
The experts also found underlying health issues, including “irreversible kidney disease, chronic weight loss, extensive parasitic skin infection over his entire body and localized arthritis.”
“The most difficult, but compassionate choice was to respectfully minimize his suffering and stress by humanely ending his journey,” the statement said.
“Mountain lion P-22 has had an extraordinary life and captured the hearts of the people of Los Angeles and beyond.”
Mountain lions typically have a lifespan of up to 10 years in the wild, or up to 21 years in captivity, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Euthanizing the cougar was a punch to the gut for game experts who had grown to love the animal.
“This really hurts,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, when he announced P-22’s death, according to USA Today.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult several days.”
– ‘Our favorite celebrity’ –
Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents part of Los Angeles County, said he was “heartbroken” at P-22’s passing.
“He was our favorite celebrity neighbor, occasional troublemaker, and beloved L.A. mascot,” Schiff tweeted.
“But most of all he was a magnificent, wild creature, who reminded us that we are part of a natural world much bigger than ourselves.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom praised P-22’s “incredible journey” in a statement.
“P-22’s survival on an island of wilderness in the heart of Los Angeles captivated people around the world,” Newsom said.
Griffith Park, where P-22 lived for perhaps a decade, is hemmed in by busy 10-lane freeways and urban sprawl. It is a nine-square-mile (23-square-kilometer) isolated patch of nature.
Experts marveled at how the wildcat got across either of two major Los Angeles freeways — the 405 and 101 — to get to Griffith Park as early as 2012.
Officials said they were not looking for the driver who struck the animal.
“This situation is not…