The National Park Service confirmed Monday that a mountain lion killed a chihuahua on its leash after quietly chasing a dog walker in the Hollywood Hills earlier this month.
For more than a decade, the Puma has fascinated Angelenos, recorded by doorbells and security cameras as they stroll through Griffith Park and along residential sidewalks. With the large radio tracking collar around his neck, the P-22 is instantly recognizable rolling over the hills. But the feline celebrity recently reminded the world that he’s still a wild animal.
The P-22 killed the chihuahua as it was walking on a leash with a dog walker on November 9, according to the National Park Service, which monitors mountain lions in the region.
“Based on video footage and GPS tracking collar data, we know that the P-22 was the animal responsible for the attack,” The agency said in a statement on Monday
According to experts, the chances of a cougar attacking a human are still very low.
“You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion,” said Beth Pratt, regional executive director of the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation. “But there is never zero risk.”
grainy video of the attack, First reported by KTLA-TV, dog walkers are shown with two dogs being chased by a mountain lion in the narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills. The cougar stalked the group, staying low to the ground, before attacking Piper, a chihuahua mix, according to the station.
The National Park Service said in a statement that the attack occurred near the Hollywood Reservoir. 12-year-old P-22 is the oldest cat in the agency’s study. For years, the P-22 has quietly crept into the nine-square-mile area of Griffith Park and surrounding residential neighborhoods.
The park service said this is the first time they’ve learned of a tame lion attacking a pet in the Los Angeles area, but other incidents have been reported in Colorado and other parts of Southern California.
P-22, like most other mountain lions, is an opportunistic hunter, Pratt said.
“They are stealth hunters,” she said. “They’re called ‘ghost cats’ for a reason. That’s how they stalk their prey. It’s not like the sight of lions in Africa chasing their prey across the plains.”
As a pet owner, Pratt grieves for the dog and its owner. But domesticated animals may be similar to the mountain lion’s natural prey, she said. In a behavior familiar to owners of pet cats, the P-22s chased dog walkers and dogs before pouncing, Pratt said, but they showed no aggression toward the walkers once they found the dog.
“It is sad that the P-22 killed a beloved pet,” she said. “But he doesn’t know that. He was just a mountain lion.
Such attacks are rare, Pratt said. The P-22 adapted and charted its own course around human activity. The 123-pound big cat has maintained a nocturnal existence around its usual stomping grounds near the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park.
Researchers believe that P-22 is originally from the Santa Monica Mountains, born to another tagged lion, P-1, and an unnamed female.
In 2012, they crossed the 405 and 101 freeways to reach Griffith Park.
P-22 has managed to avoid being hit by any vehicles during its Griffith Park residency, and although it suffered a series of scabies due to rat poisoning in 2014, the lion remains healthy today.
He has entered the Hollywood Hills occasionally, and in 2015 he baffled biologists when he took up residence in a crawl space under a Los Feliz home. Then as suddenly as he appeared, he left that locality.
In March, he continued to spawn near Silver Lake Reservoir, pushing out from his usual hunting grounds.
The National Park Service said this latest incident was unique, but the conditions were right for the puma.
The attack took place in complete darkness, about 90 minutes after sunset. Typically, the P-22 hunts deer and coyotes in Griffith Park. Authorities said that a few weeks before the chihuahua was killed, the P-22 took down a large buck in the park.
Mountain lions generally avoid large urban areas and are fearful of humans, but they do occasionally stray into front yards. According to wildlife studies, mountain lions prey on domestic dogs and other pets that get off their leashes or roam alone. Mountain lions attacked pets in their yards and even broke into a garage and a house, in what the National Park Service called “two unusual instances.”
“There is no evidence that pet predation is related to an increased likelihood of an attack on a person, either in mountain lions or in other urban carnivores such as coyotes,” the Park Service said. “Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, although they do occur.”
The agency reminds pet owners to keep their animals indoors, be mindful of their surroundings and supervise pets during dusk or dawn when predators are most active. If a person encounters a mountain lion outside, they should keep their pet close, make themselves appear as large as possible, make noise, and not run away.