Wild Mountain Lion Sneaks Into L.A. Zoo, May Have Killed Koala

A mountain lion named P-22 has apparently developed an appetite for an Australian dish.

The mountain lion, a well-known resident of Griffith Park, has sneaked into the Los Angeles Zoo before, according to zoo officials.

NBC Los Angeles reported that the koala bear keepers did a head count on Thursday, and discovered one missing. They looked further, and found a tuft of hair. Hours later, zoo workers revealed a sad scene about 400 yards away: The body of the mauled koala.

John Lewis, director of the Los Angeles Zoo, said that surveillance cameras first revealed P-22’s presence in the zoo about a month ago, roaming around after hours between exhibits. He said they had set up the cameras to look for bobcats and other wildlife, but were surprised when they saw the cougar.

“That was the first time we knew he was getting into the zoo.”

Lewis said that P-22 was seen the night the koala was killed. It is P-22’s first time killing a zoo animal. Prior, Lewis said, he thought the big cat was killing raccoons that were running at large within the zoo boundaries.

“We don’t know how he’s getting in or how he’s getting out.”

The incident has caused zoo workers to take extra precautions, like locking up the smaller animals at night.

“The koalas are all off exhibit. They’re in a safe place.”

An official statement by Barbara Romero, Deputy Mayor for City Services, said that the zoo will take necessary precautions as investigations continue.

“Unfortunately, these types of incidents happen when we have a zoo in such close proximity to one of the largest urban parks in the country. We are investigating the circumstances of the koala’s disappearance but in the meantime, we are taking action to ensure that all of our animals are safe. The koalas have been removed from their public habitats for now and other animals are being moved to their night quarters when the zoo closes.”

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell was all for relocating the mountain lion.

“Regardless of what predator killed the koala, this tragedy just emphasizes the need to contemplate relocating P-22 to a safer, more remote wild area where he has adequate space to roam without the possibility of human interaction. P-22 is maturing, will continue to wander, and runs the risk of a fatal freeway crossing as he searches for a mate. As much as we love P-22 at Griffith Park, we know the park is not ultimately suitable for him. We should consider resettling him in the environment he needs.”

The mountain lion has gained notoriety over the past several years, as he was fitted with a GPS collar and his movements tracked around Griffith Park. In December, 2015, he made headlines when he recovered from a bad bout of mange.

P-22 was believed to be born in the Santa Monica Mountains and at some point, crossed the 405 and 101 Freeways to the Griffith Park wilderness.

Griffith Park seems an ideal home for the mountain lion, offering 4,300 acres for him to roam, with elevations ranging from 384 to 1821 feet. It offers a diverse selection of wildlife, including coyotes, mule deer, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, bobcats, and foxes.

However, Griffith Park has no koala bears on the menu, and maybe for a cat with urban tastes, there just aren’t enough exotic offerings. P-22 was in fact hanging out in the crawl space of a home in Los Feliz for a while in April, 2015.

NBC Los Angeles described how homeowners Paula and Jason Archinaco were awarded a certificate from the National Wildlife Federation for showing care and concern for the mountain lion. During the media blitz that followed, P-22 moved out the next morning and went back to Griffith Park.

Efforts to accommodate the big cat extend to the zoo itself. Although P-22 won’t be offered any more koala bears, the zoo director Lewis said he is welcome to return.

“There’s a lot of native wildlife in this area. This is their home. So we’ll learn to adapt to P-22 just like he’s learned to adapt to us.”

[Image via kojihirano/Shutterstock]