By Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times
Leilani Fideler received an alert that her backyard motion sensor had detected some raccoons.
Soon, her phone pinged again. This time, it wasn’t a raccoon.
“I was shocked to see a lion’s tail,” Fideler said. “I saw him jump over my gate. It was just wild.”
P-22, Los Angeles’ most famous mountain lion, made a brief appearance on Fideler’s Beachwood Canyon deck, letting the world know that he’s still stalking the hillsides around Griffith Park and has not changed his address in the new year.
Fideler, an actor who recently moved to the neighburhood, wasn’t home during the 12-year-old lion’s visit on Tuesday night.
In the video captured by her Ring security cameras, he hops a gate to enter the property.
Later, he nimbly leaps to crouch atop a fence, city lights glowing in the distance.
Researchers who have been following P-22 since he made his first appearance in Griffith Park 10 years ago are positive he is the lion in the video, thanks to the tracking collar visible on his neck.
The backyard foray was the latest dramatic gesture from P-22, who once hid out under a Los Feliz house and is suspected to have killed a koala at the city zoo.
Researchers believe P-22 is originally from the Santa Monica Mountains, born to P-1 and an unnamed female lion.
Somehow, he found his way to Griffith Park around 2012, meaning he embarked on a journey most Angelenos undertake to get across town — he crossed the 405 and 101 freeways.
His tawny good looks have attracted many fans. In an iconic 2013 image, photographer Steve Winter captured him prowling at night with the Hollywood sign gleaming in the background.
The following year, P-22’s bout with mange, caused by rat poison, was also captured on camera, his normally majestic visage scraggly and grumpy-looking.
But he has no admirers of his own species. Hemmed in by freeways, he is believed to be the only mountain lion in the area, with no females to take as a mate.
“He’s the Brad Pitt of the cougar world. He’s handsome, has aged well, but has struggles with his dating life,” said Beth Pratt, who heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign.
Despite his GPS collar and proximity to densely populated neighbourhoods, researchers have a hard time keeping track of his movements.
“The vast majority of the time, we don’t know where this animal is,” said Seth Riley, wildlife branch chief with the National Park Service.
But with the popularity of home security cameras like Ring, images of him on front porches and in backyards are increasingly common.
“That doesn’t mean that the lions are suddenly now coming to everyone’s back doors,” Riley said. “It just means that everyone has photos of it now.”
Pratt’s group is raising funds for an $87-million overpass that will allow isolated cougars to cross a 10-lane stretch of the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills.
“It’s not that he shouldn’t be in Griffith Park, but he shouldn’t be trapped there. He should be able to travel in and out of it,” Pratt said.
The fanfare that follows P-22 sightings is to be expected, Pratt said. Angelenos have embraced the big feline in their midst.
“I really love to celebrate the people of L.A., because in any other state, this cat would have been removed or killed immediately upon detection,” Pratt said. “Here we are, living with him and celebrating him.”
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