The reign of the famous mountain lion in Hollywood is coming to an end
It was night in Los Angeles, and artist Cori Mattie was enjoying a glass or two of wine when she heard something outside her house.
At first she thought her brother’s labrador retriever had left the house, so she went to get him.
But it wasn’t a dog.” It was a mountain lion [كلمة بذيئة]says Matty.
And not just any mountain lion – but the most famous mountain lion in Hollywood, and maybe even the world.
His name was B-22, Mattie said, and her encounter with him in March was an indelible mark.
His green eyes shone directly into her. She stared at him in turn. She shot a short video before hiding inside, and the B-22 remained until dawn, when it went quietly over the lattice fence.
“He could have destroyed me, but he didn’t. It escalated quickly and he became my spirit animal. I went from zero to a hundred, very quickly,” she said.
Mattie wasn’t the first to be charmed by Angelina’s B-22. The city has been under his control since 2012, when he somehow managed to cross two deadly highways and take up residence in Griffith Park, a 4,200-acre mountain in the heart of one of the world’s largest concrete forests.
Since then, his charisma and unusual choice of urban habitat have made him a local folk hero. His plight – trapped on an urban island with no way to find a mate – has also made him the face of the endangered species movement.
B-22 fans were heartbroken this week when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that due to the lion’s increasingly erratic behavior as he reaches old age, he now faces two potentially bleak futures: relocation or being euthanized. Definitely not coming back to Griffith Park.
But whatever happens, his decades-long reign has cemented his status as a shining star in Hollywood as much as any star on the big screen.
Griffith Park is small compared to the typical average mountain lion size of 150 square miles. However, like many city dwellers, the B-22 was willing to sacrifice space for a prime location.
It was first discovered in February 2012, when Miguel Urdinana, a park biologist, was reviewing nighttime footage from his wildlife camera traps.
“Suddenly, this huge lion’s butt appeared on my computer screen!”, recalls Ordinana.
At first he didn’t believe it, but a later photo confirmed that the park had a new exciting resident.
And the big cat captured the imagination of famous nature photographer Steve Winter, who set a camera trap under the Hollywood sign. He waited more than a year before bringing the B-22 into camera frame.
The photo went viral on National Geographic, which led to the birth of a star.
“It gave people hope, because they live in this big metropolitan area and they have a park they walk in that was actually wild with mountain lions,” Winter said. “He became a celebrity in Celebrity City,” he added.
A decade of B-22 adventures followed. He terrified a maintenance worker in 2015 when he hid in a maintenance area under a Los Feliz home. He is occasionally seen in front of the door and in front of the cameras in the garden, imposing, even gentle, as he feeds on the deer he has just slaughtered. The city loved him so much that they forgave him when he (probably) killed a koala in an LA park. Los Angeles declared October 22 “B-22 Day”.
But it also became a symbol of a darker reality for California mountain lions.
Local prey – wolves, raccoons and other small animals – were also infected with rat poison, which is now ubiquitous in Los Angeles.
In 2014, B-22 cameras noticed him looking sick and officials took him in for treatment.
The picture of him looking old and confused soon went viral, but it was no joke. It was found to be full of rat poison and consumed by mange, conditions that kill most mountain lions.
California highways have choked off the habitats of animal species. Although up to 6 thousand mountain lions live in California.
Researchers believe that the population in the Santa Monica Mountains, where B-22 was likely born, could die out within 50 years as the cats resort to inbreeding, weakening their gene pool.
Large patches of asphalt also make journeys to new habitats deadly. In September, a pregnant mountain lioness was injured and killed when she tried to cross the Malibu Expressway, which cuts through a key habitat. She and her four unborn cubs had traces of rat poison in their bodies.
Ordinana once recorded a video of a B-22 making plaintive mating calls.
Highways and development around Griffith Park ensured he was isolated from potential females and would never breed.
The reign of the Lion King is over
Being around people who love him leads to his downfall. At the advanced age of 12, he began spending more time behaving wildly in the urban areas around the park. Recently, a chihuahua, one of the least endangered but highly protected species in Los Angeles, was killed. The last straw came after he attacked a local woman who was walking her dog.
When officers cornered him in the yard on Dec. 12, B-22 was malnourished, riddled with mange and suffering from an eye injury likely from a car crash, said National Park Service scientist Jeff Sikich. Haya spent more time with the B-22 than anyone else.
At a press conference the following day, it was revealed that it was unlikely he would ever be released back into the wild.
As tragic as it is, his fans say moving him out of Griffith Park and putting him in a sanctuary would be the best-case scenario, and his legacy as an LA legend is secure.
“Against all odds he managed to survive here.” said Mattie, who painted his large mural and is involved in wildlife conservation campaigns. Emphasizing that “a lot of people can identify with him. It’s not easy, Los Angeles will chew you up and spit you out.” But for now, it still exists.