Mountain Lion P-22 Buried in the Santa Monica Mountains Tribal Ceremony

March 4 burial for Southern California’s most famous mountain lion at an undisclosed location in the Santa Monica Mountains

On March 4, Southern California’s most famous mountain lion, P-22, was buried in the Santa Monica Mountains where he once roamed. P-22 was a symbol of California’s endangered mountain lions and their decreasing genetic diversity.

P-22 made his home in the urban Griffith Park for the past decade and was given his name as the 22nd puma included in a study conducted by the National Park Service. His death late last year sparked an ongoing argument regarding whether scientists could keep specimens of P-22’s remains for testing and research. Chumash, Tataviam and Gabrielino (Tongva) peoples argued to bury all samples taken during the necropsy with his body on ancestral lands while others believed that this would be disrespectful to tradition. Mountain lions are seen as relatives and teachers within LA’s tribal communities and all sides were eager to reach a compromise by his burial day, but a consensus was not reached by burial day. 

On March 4 traditional ceremonial rituals including songs, prayers, and smoke cleansings paid homage to P-22’s legacy before he was laid to rest in an undisclosed location within the Santa Monica Mountains. 

“While we have done everything we could to keep the carcass intact, the Tribes and agencies involved are still working toward a conclusion about some of the samples,” the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. “What is important to understand is that the Tribes and agencies involved all agreed on moving forward with the burial and it was a moving ceremony. We have come to a better place of understanding and we look forward to continued growth from this place.”

“The death of P-22 has affected all of us and he will forever be a revered icon and ambassador for wildlife conservation,” the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County said in a statement. 

As reported by the Associated Press, Alan Salazar from Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians expressed confidence that due to P-22’s example, wildlife officials will learn to be more respectful moving forward towards animals. 

Beth Pratt, California’s executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, wrote in a Facebook post after attending the ceremony that the burial helped her “achieve some measure of peace” while grieving the animal’s death.

“I can also imagine P-22 at peace now, with such a powerful and caring send-off to the next place,” Pratt wrote. “As we laid him to rest, a red-tailed hawk flew overhead and called loudly, perhaps there to help him on his journey.”

P-22’s story is unique and inspiring even when sad; born about 12 years ago in the western Santa Monica Mountains he had to leave due to conflict with his father combined with difficulty finding a potential mate before ultimately making his way across two heavily trafficked freeways into Griffith Park where he was eventually captured by a wildlife biologist via trail cam footage in 2012. Sadly, last December P-22 was captured from a residential backyard after being hit by a car according to examinations which further revealed a skull fracture along with skin infection and diseases affecting both kidneys and liver leading him having been euthanized only five days later.

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