Ghost of Griffith Park: P-22 and the Intersection of Wildlife and the City - Walden Outdoor Athletic

Ghost of Griffith Park: P-22 and the Intersection of Wildlife and the City

California’s mountain lions have always symbolized the mystery of the state’s wild places, where rugged landscapes provide them an ideal habitat to exist in ways that tell the vivid story of their evolutionary journey thus far. For our past season’s collection, we were inspired by youthful summer vacations in the mountains, and knew we needed to find a way to represent these animals that silently monitored our memories of swimming and boating from the high peaks above. 

Perhaps the most iconic of all of these big cats was the lion who the National Parks Service named P-22 (Puma 22). Within the tangle of L.A.’s foliage and freeways, P-22's journey into the spotlight began in 2012 when remote cameras captured his image roaming the depths of Griffith Park. This urban wilderness, framed by the iconic Hollywood sign, became an unlikely refuge for this apex predator. His discovery, and the tenacity of a creature who had made a home amidst the cacophony of city life, sparked intrigue throughout Southern California.

Photo of P-22 by Steve Winter of National Geographic

Living in Griffith Park presented P-22 with a paradoxical existence, where the rhythms of the wild met the pulsating and often dangerous energy of the city. He was both a creature of instinct and an unwitting symbol of ecological resilience. P-22 navigated a delicate balance between the ancient ways of the wild and the encroachment of modern human existence. His movements, tracked and studied by researchers, showcased a remarkable ability to adapt, but also a story of a wild animal seemingly isolated and removed from its natural range and held captive by circumstance in a range over 30 times too small for an adult mountain lion (National Parks Service, 2023).

In December 2022, after medical evaluations revealed “several severe injuries, such as significant trauma to his head, right eye, and internal organs from a suspected vehicle strike, as well as multiple chronic health illnesses, including irreversible kidney disease” (National Parks Service, 2023), authorities made the decision to euthanize P-22. It’s suspected he was around 12 years old. It’s in his memory that we named our mountain lion print for Summer 2023. Our hope is that by keeping the story of P-22 alive, the lessons of his life won’t be forgotten and will inspire new thinking on the intersection of nature and human development.

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