California buries famous mountain lion P-22

California buries famous mountain lion P-22

On Saturday, tribal leaders, conservation advocates, and scientists held a traditional tribal burial for P-22, Southern California’s most famous mountain lion, in the mountains where the big cat once roamed.

P-22 had been a symbol for California’s endangered mountain lions and their decreasing genetic diversity, making his home in the urban Griffith Park for the past decade.

The death of P-22 set off a debate between the tribes in the Los Angeles area and wildlife officials over whether scientists could keep samples of the mountain lion’s remains for future testing and research.

Some tribal elders argued that keeping the specimens for scientific testing would disrespect their traditions, as mountain lions are regarded as relatives and teachers in LA’s tribal communities.

A potential compromise was discussed recently, but a consensus was not reached before P-22 was buried in an unspecified location in the Santa Monica Mountains on Saturday.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said that they had done everything possible to keep the carcass intact, and the tribes and agencies involved had all agreed on moving forward with the burial.

The traditional tribal burial included songs, prayers, and sage smoke cleansings and was attended by tribal member Alan Salazar and California executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, Beth Pratt.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where the cougar’s remains had been kept in a freezer before the burial, called the burial a “historically significant ceremony.”

Salazar believes P-22’s legacy will help wildlife officials and scientists realize the importance of respecting animals in the future.

Wildlife officials believe P-22 was born about 12 years ago in the western Santa Monica Mountains but left because of his father’s aggression and his struggle to find a mate amid a dwindling population.

That drove the cougar to cross two heavily travelled freeways and migrate east to Griffith Park, where a wildlife biologist captured him on a trail camera in 2012. P-22’s journey over the freeways inspired a wildlife crossing over a Los Angeles-area highway that will allow big cats and other animals safe passage between the mountains and wildlands to the north.

P-22 was captured last December in a residential backyard following dog attacks. Examinations revealed a skull fracture, the result of being hit by a car, and chronic illnesses, including a skin infection and diseases of the kidneys and liver.

The city’s cherished big cat was euthanized five days later. To honor the place where the animal made his home among the city’s urban sprawl, a boulder from Griffith Park was brought to the gravesite in the Santa Monica Mountains and placed near P-22’s grave.

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