A famed mountain lion was euthanized Saturday morning after wildlife officials determined he had likely been hit by a vehicle.
P-22, a male cougar estimated to be about 12 years old, was suffering from “several severe injuries and chronic health problems,” according to a statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A mountain lion in the wild is considered to be in “old age” after 10, according to the Mountain Lion Foundation.
P-22 had been tranquilized Monday in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood for a medical exam. Prior to his capture, wildlife officials expressed worry that he was “exhibiting signs of distress.” The big cat had also raised concerns after snatching a leashed Chihuahua from a dog walker last month. The dog did not survive.
Veterinarians with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park found that P-22 had “significant trauma” to his head and internal organs, according to the wildlife department. This confirmed suspicions that he had suffered a recent injury, which officials said was likely a vehicle strike. He also had kidney disease, arthritis and “extensive” parasitic skin infection. The combination of these conditions and his age led the veterinary team to “unanimously” recommend euthanasia.
P-22 first appeared in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park in 2012, the Los Angeles Times said in its comprehensive obituary of the celebrated cat. Scientists fitted him with a radio collar to study his movements, and he quickly became a local celebrity. His star continued to rise with a story from the Times that year and then a National Geographic profile.
To get to the park from his presumed birthplace in the Santa Monica Mountains, P-22 had to cross two perilous freeways, the 405 and 101. Though he survived the journey, he was left more or less boxed in by the busy roads and would have had to cross back to find a mate. Instead, he roamed the Los Angeles area solo for a decade.
When environmentalists proposed a wildlife bridge over the 101 to help animals cross the freeway, P-22 became the face of the project. Construction on the bridge began in April, the Times noted.
He also became the poster animal for efforts to ban rodenticides after he became ill in 2014 following rat poison exposure.
Fans of P-22 mourned his loss, and conservation advocates hoped that even after his death, he would continue to spur change to protect mountain lions from threats like vehicle strikes.
“My heart breaks for P-22,” J.P. Rose, the policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands program, said in a statement sent to HuffPost. “I hope we can channel this grief into action to safely coexist with and protect mountain lions, which are headed toward extinction in Southern California.”