On Monday, authorities in California captured a famous Los Angeles mountain lion, an 11-year-old feline that has frequented the area for some time. Until recently, the 123-pound male had never exhibited signs of aggression towards humans or pets. However, recently, the mountain lion attacked two LA dogs on two separate occasions. These acts of aggression lead experts to bring the animal in for examination. Now, after capturing him, officials have decided not to release P-22 back into the wild.
Yahoo states officials made the decision because the famous feline appears to suffer from serious health issues. In fact, the outlet reports the animal’s condition is so severe that euthanasia is a possible end-of-life option.
Biologists working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife shared a statement regarding their decision not to release the animal back into Griffith Park. P-22 has resided in the park for more than a decade.
“At the moment, it’s not likely that P-22 will be released back into the wild based on [his condition] and the other health issues that he seems to be facing,” Ed Pert, a regional manager for the CDFW, said during a Tuesday conference.
Experts began watching P-22 closely when, after years avoiding busy areas, he began venturing farther into populated regions for longer amounts of time. Repeated attacks on pets, combined with video footage showing the animal both underweight and losing fur, led experts to the decision to capture him.
Experts Weigh the Risks of the Mountain Lion’s End-of-Life Options
Wildlife experts continue to weight their options for P-22. However, sadly, they’re left with one of two options: commit him to a sanctuary or euthanizing him. The animal’s care givers have spoken out about the elderly male’s condition.
Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the National Parks Service, said, “Video evidence we received…was showing this thinning hair, potential muscle loss from his old age likely, also potential mange.”
Given his options, it could be cruel to release P-22 into the wild rather than euthanizing him or keeping him captive. Just as with humans, everyday activities—like hunting prey—are becoming harder and harder for the animal as he ages.
Veterinarian Winston Vickers from the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center spoke out the animal’s hunting habits. He said that years of hunting prey begin to take its toll on animals like mountain lions. Vickers said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any video of a mountain lion attacking a deer, but it is a rigorous experience for everyone, including the mountain lion…they all have aches and pains and arthritis and things that we have… [and] it can get more and more difficult to achieve their normal prey capture.”
Other experts are concerned that the mountain lion may have also recently experienced serious head trauma. Deanna Clifford is a senior veterinarian with the CDFW. She said that an injury to P-22’s right eye suggests he likely was previously involved in an auto collision. She explained, “Sometimes when people or animals are hit by cars, that trauma will take a while to manifest. So an eye injury always makes us a little worried about additional head trauma.”
As experts continue to weigh the mountain lion’s options, they also plan to run further tests and evaluations.