Agoura Hills is a mostly suburban community north of Los Angeles, between L.A. and Ventura. But it also has a nice mixture of rural pastureland and wild, mountainous areas, which are home to wildlife. Unfortunately, the area is divided by the 101 Freeway, and that man-made highway has prevented wildlife from crossing what was once a natural animal “highway”–to and from the Santa Monica Mountains. On both sides of the freeway, there exists a wide array of animals, including mountain lions.

A land bridge is being constructed to allow animals to cross the freeway and seek more breeding grounds, and for the rare cougar to find more prey and mates. Southern California once served as home to a lot of predators, including bears (even Grizzlies) and a fair number of mountain lions. The lion population in Southern California has dwindled to just a few in recent years. Also, the remaining population in the Santa Monica Mountains was inter-breeding and thus, endangered by genetic mutations. It has been estimated that, without intervention, the population would disappear in 50 years.

It took about a decade to raise $77 million in private donations, along with government funding, to begin building a  wildlife bridge across 101 in Agoura Hill. I’ve driven past the construction site many times. The bridge will be a huge improvement for the animals on both sides.

This land bridge would never have happened without the life of a cougar named P-22.

The male mountain lion was discovered in 2012 in Griffith Park. For those readers outside of California, the park is best known for its observatory, not its wildlife. P-22 had to have come from the Santa Monica Mountain range and had to have crossed at least one, 8- to 10-lane freeway to get to its eventual Griffith Park home. P-22 was a lone male. After P-22 was sighted on a nature camera, he caused some concerns; P-22 was an apex predator in a park frequented by thousands of visitors daily. (The park is technically located in the city of Los Angeles.) This concern was heightened after P-22 killed a koala in the L.A. Zoo. He had jumped a high fence to take the koala.

In the decade since his discovery, the now-middle aged big cat has gained international fame. At one point, he nearly died from eating an animal that had consumed rat poison. But he was suffering from a number of injuries and illnesses, and it was determined that he could not be brought back to health. P-22 was tearfully euthanized by vets on Saturday.

According to the LA Times:

“His story of being isolated and trapped is what really got people to realize why a crossing like that was needed, more than any scientific paper could,” said Beth Pratt, a regional executive director in California for the National Wildlife Federation, who called herself P-22’s agent. “He changed the world for his kind.”

P-22 changed minds regarding how humans and predators could co-exist in densely populated Southern California. Scientists and trail walkers soon learned that yes, P-22 and other cougars could live in the same area as millions of humans without being an undue hazard.

While it may seem silly, P-22 will be missed.

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