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Los Angeles Mourns Wild Mountain Lion in Sold-Out Memorial Service

Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Los Angeles’s Greek Theatre to mourn the death of P-22, a local wild mountain lion—and one of Hollywood’s favorite animal celebrities. 

For years, the male lion prowled around neighborhoods, occasionally showing up on wildlife cams but otherwise sticking to the shadows. Unlike some other urban carnivores, P-22 always left residents alone, shying away when people tried to snap photos. He was such a presence of the small neighborhood, though, that for many people he felt like a neighbor. 

So, when P-22 (named for his biological tracking signifier) passed away after being struck by a vehicle in late December, the town felt the loss in a big way. Tickets to the February memorial sold out in hours. 

At the long-awaited service, which stretched for a full three hours, local celebrities, scientists and land managers all took to the stage to celebrate the life of the big cat and pay their respects. Many of the speakers said P-22 was a huge inspiration for their interest in conservation biology, and that he helped unite neighbors over a common cause. 

Some teary-eyed memorial service attendees said the loss of the lion felt like the loss of any other community member. Others recalled the excitement of chance sightings and said the promise of a P-22 encounter always lent a special magic to their hikes around LA

Now, P-22 will be bringing the community together in a new way. In his honor, the local government is building a wildlife crossing over the 101 freeway, which will connect habitats on either side of the road. The project should allow mountain lions to pass freely between patches of Los Angeles green space in search of food, water and mates. It should also cut down on the number of automobile-related fatalities, one of the leading causes of mountain lion deaths in the area. 

“He was an ambassador for urban wildlife,” National Park Service biologist Jeff Sikich said at the memorial. “His legacy will live on.” 

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