P22 is gone and I miss him already. There was such a sense of wildness and mystery when he was in the Park. Just knowing that the big cat was roaming around, searching for food, burying his prey to eat later, finding a quiet place to sleep… it gave me a feeling of wonder. It made living next to Griffith Park a little more exciting, with an added dash of danger. How many times have I watched those grainy videos of him walking so nonchalantly down a street less than a mile from my house? I longed for a least one live glimpse.
What’s so surprising is how this one creature created so much emotion, devotion, and activity. In the asphalt jungle that is Los Angeles -- all cars, mini-malls, traffic lights and busyness -- he got us thinking and questioning. What if we really are part of a greater web of life that includes this apex predator? What does that mean? For many, it meant a change in perspective, the realization that we have a responsibility to keep and preserve this stunning feline intact. To others it meant a newfound sense of connection to all mountain lions and wildlife in the region. Which resulted in the creation of the wildlife connectivity bridge to be built over the 101 freeway. What a legacy, to have inspired the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, an overpass spanning the Ventura Freeway in Agoura Hills. This wildlife corridor will allow animals, particularly mountain lions to travel through areas that are fragmented by freeways. As we all know, P22 got to Griffith Park by crossing a freeway; but many cougars haven’t survived the trek.
Of course, to make sense of all this we like to project human qualities on our beloved big cat. Some called him courageous and noble. Some called him dashing and handsome, the Brad Pitt of pumas. He was all this and more and he didn’t even know it. Like so many Angelenos, he was just trying to survive this big city with all its hardness and challenges, using all the resources and instincts given him. It wasn’t easy but he kept at it until he couldn’t. He didn’t know he was noble. He just knew he had to make a living. Alone. He didn’t know that we had whole day of celebrations dedicated to him with T-shirts, stuffed animals, and coloring books.
He gave us more than we gave him. He gave us awe.