Griffith Park

Happy 10th Anniversary to P-22, LA's Beloved Mountain Lion

The first photo of the big cat was taken a decade ago by a wildlife-documenting camera in Griffith Park.

Steve Winter Photography

What to Know

  • Researchers knew of local mountain lion sightings, but a 2012 photo of the mountain lion now known as P-22 confirmed the presence of a big cat living in Griffith Park
  • A camera, set up to capture wildlife photos, took a snap of P-22 on Feb. 12, 2012; Friends of Griffith Park first saw the image in early March when the SD memory card was retrieved
  • P-22 Day, which celebrates both the famous feline and all of LA's urban wildlife, takes place each fall in the park

It seems like just about every superstar can tell a thrilling, Tinseltown-centered tale of being discovered.

Perhaps the celebrity was sipping a soda pop at a lunch counter, or checking hats at a trendy nightclub, or maybe they were roaming Griffith Park by the light of the moon, when a camera, set up specifically to capture images of urban wildlife, took their now-famous photo.

That last category pretty much belongs to one widely loved local, a mountain lion that now goes by the world-famous handle of P-22.

P-22 Mountain Lion of Hollywood became known to the world in March 2012, when Friends of Griffith Park took a look at the SD memory card in the camera. And what they saw brought astonishment and wonder: A photograph of a big cat, snapped on February 12, 2012, at 9:15 p.m., per the photo's timestamp.

Los Angeles, and the wildlife-loving world, would never be the same after that magical moment.

For while researchers had heard many tails, er, tales about mountain lions living in the hills above our megalopolis, the picture, which was taken in Griffith Park, provided clear and compelling proof that the incredible animal was quite real and quite close.

The Friends of Griffith Park organization is raising a celebratory yowl on Feb. 12, 2022, all to mark the momentous anniversary and ten tremendous years, a decade that has seen a major increase in the community's focus on living well alongside the countless urban critters that call our region home.

P-22 Day, in fact, is a fall festivity that not only celebrates the obsessed-over mountain lion, but all of the animals, from owls to skunks to hawks to coyotes, that live around and among us in Southern California.

If you're wondering about P-22's birthday, now that we're marking happy moments in the cat's journey, Friends of Griffith Park places it around 2010 in the Santa Monica Mountains.

"P-22's story is legendary because it's a relatable one of survival and resilience. He is an unprecedented case study of puma adaptation to extremely urbanized habitat," said Miguel Ordeñana, FoGP Board member and the first biologist to view the image of P-22 from the Study camera.

"None of us expected to find a mountain lion in Griffith Park, which we thought was way too disconnected from the nearest mountain lion populations by freeways and urbanization. We originally assumed maybe he was only passing through, but now 10 years later, it seems that P-22 is here to stay."

You can follow P-22's adventures, as well as those who advocate for the cat and all critters, via his whimsical and informative social media presence.

Friends of Griffith Park is "... an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Griffith Park’s natural habitat, biodiversity, and historic features, FoGP, in partnership with Cooper Ecological Monitoring, initiated and funded the Griffith Park Wildlife Connectivity Study in 2011. Biologists Dr. Daniel S. Cooper, Miguel Ordeñana and Erin Boydston of the USGS Ecological Research Center conducted the study."

Photo #1: Nature photographer Steve Winter arranged to capture P-22 in the mountain lion's new Griffith Park habitat. After 15 months, he was rewarded with the now iconic image of P-22, with the Hollywood Sign behind his shoulders, which graced National Geographic Magazine in December of 2013. Credit: Steve Winter Photography.

Photo #2: The very first sighting of P-22 in Griffith Park was this image, captured by cameras placed around the Park as part of the Wildlife Connectivity Study funded by Friends of Griffith Park, on February 12, 2012 at 9:15 PM. Credit: Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc., USGS, courtesy Friends of Griffith Park.

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