Cougar That Made 'Improbable Journey' Gets a Tribal Burial

Native American tribes oversaw private interment of P-22, who resided for years in LA's Griffith Park
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2023 9:10 AM CST
Cougar That Made 'Improbable Journey' Gets a Tribal Burial
This November 2014 file photo shows P-22, photographed in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.   (National Park Service, via AP, File)

A mountain lion who emerged from Southern California's mountains nearly a dozen years ago and has resided in Los Angeles' Griffith Park ever since was buried over the weekend in a tribal ceremony after being euthanized late last year, a rep for the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy confirms to KTLA. Although that outlet notes that the exact burial location is being kept secret "to protect and preserve the site," the Los Angeles Times reports that P-22 was buried "where he most likely was born and where other mountain lions still roam." Members of four local tribes presided over the private, unrecorded ceremony, also attended by members of California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, and LA County's Museum of Natural History.

"We had one simple goal: to try and be as respectful as possible to such a magnificent animal," says Alan Salazar, a tribal elder with the Fernandeno Tataviam and Ventureno Chumash tribes. "He was a leader. He was a chief." P-22, who surprisingly popped up in Los Feliz in 2012, was believed to have been born in the Santa Monica Mountains and to have made what the Times calls "an improbable journey" over a pair of freeways and through the Hollywood Hills to reach Griffith Park. P-22 was captured in December in a backyard following deaths of local dogs, per the AP. It was determined he'd suffered a fractured skull from being hit by a car and had other chronic illnesses, and a decision was made to euthanize. After his death, the cougar was given a very public memorial service in February at a sold-out event at LA's Greek Theatre.

The animal also found itself at the center of a controversy after he died on whether his body should be stuffed and displayed, with samples taken from the necropsy kept for research. Ultimately, the decision was made not to engage in taxidermy, as Native American tribes consider mountain lions sacred, though a compromise was discussed on the samples. "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's Department of Fish and Wildlife noted in a Monday statement. The agency called the burial ceremony a "moving" one. "It was a beautiful, natural setting," Beth Pratt, a regional executive director in California for the NWF, tells the Times. "Knowing the beauty of where he's laid to rest, it gives me some comfort." (More mountain lion stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.