The Cat That Changed America…and Malibu.

By Steve Woods

If it was not for an untagged male mountain lion pressured out of our local Malibu mountains and pushed deeper into the small urban island of Grif th Park, there may not have been a Poison Free Malibu, a rodenticide ban or plans to build a wildlife corridor across the 101 Freeway, and certainly no famous picture of P-22 walking in front of the iconic Hollywood sign.

A new lm documentary focuses on a mountain lion tagged P-22, the challenges Pumas are facing from the encroachment of suburban development across California wildlands and the plan to build the world’s largest wildlife crossing. This would help connect mountain lions to a larger genetic DNA pool along with other wildlife to one of the last undeveloped wildlife corridors that would connect spaces better suited for them.

There is an urgency to get the crossing built as mountain lions are running out of time in California; they are threatened by urban sprawl, in- breeding, vehicles, rat poison and ultimately extinction. If they do not get the help they need now, they will most certainly be gone in 50 years.

It may have been mountain lion P-45, a dominant male that challenged P-22 to get out of his territory surrounding Malibu and flee for his life. P-22 was pressured out of the frying pan and into the re of an urban landscape dominated by herds of fast moving metallic beasts traveling in concrete streams to the North, South and East. His choice? Santa Monica? No! To the northwest across the 101 Freeway into an area with other males or head East…East it was, into unmarked territory, free of any scents of other males but the open spaces ended at the 405, one of the busiest freeways in the world. Turn back and face P-45 or risk a crossing? Too many mountain lions have died crossing other roadways but P-22 did the impossible and survived crossing the 405. There were never any sightings of a mountain lion on the Bel Air side of the 405 nor anywhere on Mulholland Hwy.

P-22 must have jumped over a thousand backyard fences in the heavily developed neighborhoods to the east with such stealth as to avoid detection but there may have been a few pets along the way that were detected missing.

Pushing east through an endless maze of hillside communities with barking dogs, another formidable obstacle presented itself… the 101 Freeway. Nobody knows for sure but biologists believe he may have crossed the freeway over a bridge near Universal Studios in the Cahuenga Pass and scampered up into the open brush that networks into one of California’s largest urban parks named after Grif th J. Grif th. Grif th donated his land for the purpose of giving everyday hard working Angelinos a place to enjoy undeveloped nature.

Though the 4,400-acre park was not the 200 square miles that are ideal for a mountain lion, P-22 claimed all for his lonely self along with the herds of healthy deer but unfortunately his diet also included raccoons, coyotes, rabbits and mice with dangerous levels of anticoagulant rat poison.

P-22, the most famous mountain lion in the world, is both a celebrity and a messenger. So far he has managed to survive the deadly traf c of Los Angeles, stealthily navigate the city’s massive urban sprawl, and take up residence in an area that represents 3% of a normal size home range for a mountain lion. He also miraculously recovered from a potentially life-threatening case of rodenticide poisoning. For the most part P-22 has overcome the odds, but his story is a cautionary tale with an important message – one that is explored in the upcoming documenta- ry lm “The Cat that Changed America.”

Being a long time Malibuite who has been hiking and mountain biking the hundreds of miles of Malibu trails for over 30 years, I have been fortunate enough to have had some rare visual encounters with these beautiful yet stealth cats who have witnessed me more times than
I will ever want to know. For those who are fearful or squeamish about the idea of being in an area with or in close contact with mountain lions, please take note of the wildlife camera footage that takes a picture every 6 seconds. One camera is placed on a hiking trail and shows a mountain lion sitting on the trail. Every six seconds, for several frames, you see P-22 sitting. In the next frame, he has vanished. Six seconds later, a jogger runs by in the same spot that P-22 was sitting and the jogger never had a clue. P-22 has helped to create a movement that is shifting our view of mountain lions and, with effort on our part, we are learning to co-exist with this important keystone species. His story
can be a catalyst to help change America and the rest of the world. Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, that smiling blonde who never travels without her life-size P-22 cutout, is the California Director of the National Wildlife Federation and is spearheading the efforts to raise $10 million in private funds to add to Cal Trans and other State and Federal Funding Grants to complete the $50 million dollar estimated project.

For the sake of the Mountain Lions, let’s hope that California stakeholders do not lose federal funds because some California cities continue to defy federal law by claiming Sanctuary City status. $3 million has been raised by private donations so far and if you are interested in help- ing contribute to a great cause please contact Beth Pratt-Bergstrom of the National Wildlife Federation at or email:

Cece Woods

The Current Report Editor in Chief Cece Woods started The Local Malibu, an activism based platform in 2014. The publication was instrumental in the success of pro-preservation ballot measures and seating five top vote-getters in the Malibu City Council elections.

During the summer of 2018, Woods exposed the two-year law enforcement cover-up in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings, and a few short months later provided the most comprehensive local news coverage during the Woolsey Fire attracting over one million hits across her social media platforms.

Since 2020, Woods was the only journalist reporting on the on-going public corruption involving former L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington. Woods worked with Political Corruption expert Adam Loew, DC Watchdog organizations and leaders in the Capitol exposing Washington which ultimately led to the withdrawal of his nomination to head the FAA.

Woods also founded Malibu based 90265 Magazine and Cali Mag devoted to the authentic southern California lifestyle.

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