Famed P-22 mountain lion stuck under house, won't come out

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 14 April 2015 | 12.56

The famed mountain lion P-22 wandered into a classic L.A. moment Monday when he holed up under a home in Los Feliz as helicopters buzzed overhead, news vans crowded the streets and a TV network offered the city a live feed of the attempt to free the animal.

The cougar had padded out of the woods of Griffith Park sometime after midnight and taken refuge in the dark, shallow space under the contemporary, white-walled home of Jason and Paula Archinaco.

By midday, two workers installing a security system as part of a home renovation climbed into the crawl space. One worker quickly came uncomfortably close — eyeball-to-eyeball close — with the cat.

The workers quickly ran upstairs to alert the owners, who called the city, which then contacted the state.

"I didn't think for two seconds that it was a mountain lion in my house," Jason Archinaco said. "If someone says Big Foot's in your house, you go, 'Yeah,' and you stick your head in there."

P-22 has become a cult figure since being discovered living in Griffith Park more than three years ago. Scientists, who surmised that he crossed the 405 and 101 Freeways to enter the park, successfully captured him and attached a GPS collar.

Using remote cameras, a National Geographic photographer snapped images of P-22 with city lights and the Hollywood sign behind him, all but cementing his reputation.

Armando Navarrete, a team leader with Los Angeles Animal Services who was the first wildlife official on the scene in Los Feliz, said the mountain lion was about 25 feet behind a wall separating the crawl space from a balcony under the house.

The worker who discovered the animal looked as white as a ghost, Navarrete said, and had gotten out of there "like a bat out of hell."

Navarrete said he at first figured the beast for a bobcat. But when he crawled in himself and got about 10 feet away, he knew he was staring at a top-of-the-food-chain animal.

A state Department of Fish and Wildlife warden confirmed from the lion's ear tag and collar that it was P-22. Officials seemed ecstatic to see that the cougar appeared healthy and in decent spirits.

Paula said the lion appeared calm and at home in his protected perch on a narrow, winding road just above the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House.

"He was just lying there looking like, 'What? I don't understand what the hullabaloo is about.'"

But with wildlife officials, news reporters and bystanders pacing about and helicopters whirring overhead, they blocked the crawl space with a plastic folding table instead, and settled in to wait for darkness to descend.

"Even if the cat could come out, he wouldn't," said Janice Mackey, a spokeswoman for the fish and wildlife agency. "There's too much activity out there."

About 8:30 p.m., officials shooed reporters and others away from the opening and prepared to lift the plastic table. The hillside home abuts open space, and the expectation was that, with the coast clear, P-22 might dart back to the woods.

Marty Williams, a patrol lieutenant with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said authorities were clearing the street and that they tried to poke the mountain lion with a long pole to urge him to vacate the premises.

When that didn't work, they turned to tennis balls to get his attention. Finally, they fired bean bag rounds at the lion, but that didn't work either.

After that, officials called it a night.

Most of the time, mountain lions keep to their natural habitat, said Jeff Sikich, a biologist who has tracked P-22 as part of a cougar study in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

"But in this fragmented system we have here, with roads and homes, they really can't avoid houses," he said.

Such interactions between mountain lions and human beings are increasing as people put their homes deeper into lion habitat, said David Baron, a science writer in Boulder, Colo., and author of "The Beast in the Garden," a book about the mountain lion-human conflict.

"You've got lions living right next to people, and lions have learned to adapt," Baron said.

"Probably the only surprising thing was that the lion was seen under the house. He probably spends more time under houses than anyone knows."

If anything good comes "of this crazy mayhem," Baron added, "it might teach the lion not to come out of the park."

"I would suspect," he said, "that all those news crews and helicopters are providing some very serious aversive conditioning."

victoria.kim@latimes.com

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

martha.groves@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

7:20 p.m.: This story was updated to include that the crawl space under the Los Feliz home was blocked off.

6:14 p.m.: This story was updated to include comments from Janice Mackey

This story was originally published at 5:53 p.m.


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