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Hollywood Hills mountain lion video has wildlife enthusiasts buzzing

Vlad Polumiskov was surprised by a visit from his neighbor, a new star in the Hollywood Hills.

A star-struck Polumiskov was returning home from dinner when they met in the parking lot of his apartment off Barham Boulevard.

“I parked my car, and I was getting ready to get my son out of the car seat,” Polumiskov said. “As I’m holding my son, I look to the left because the lights were still on they’re very bright. I look to the left of me and I see a huge cat, a mountain lion.”

Polumiskov returned hours later and the mountain lion was still hanging around, so he captured video that has wildlife watchers buzzing. The cat remained among trees and brush bordering the parking lot before disappearing back into the greenery on the western reaches of Griffith Park.

The sighting at the apartment complex off Barham Boulevard in the hills above Burbank and Toluca Lake is still in the process of being verified by the National Park Service, which tracks lions and their movements in the Santa Monica Mountains. But fans of famed mountain lion P-22 were enthusiastic about the possibility of Griffith Park welcoming another big cat after the death of the beloved mountain lion, aka the Hollywood Cat.

Polumiskov said its not his first sighting, but this time he has video proof.

“I saw a mountain lion four months ago,” he said. “Nobody believed me because I didn’t have the footage. All the neighbors are calling me now the Cat Whisperer, the Lion Whisperer.

Despite his fame, P-22 likely lived a lonely life roaming Griffith Park and the Hollywood Hills for about a decade. His death in 2022 left a mountain lion-shaped hole in the hearts of wildlife enthusiasts. The big cat was recognized as an animal ambassador who helped people better understand mountain lion behavior and how they move around the wild urban landscape of Los Angeles.

“I was like, Griffith Park will never be the same,” said Beth Pratt, of the National Wildlife Federation. “And then I thought, you know it won’t ever be the same because we know what to do. And now, have a new mountain lion and LA will know what to do thanks to P-22.”

The newly spotted mountain lion, who didn’t seem fazed by the headlights of Polumiskov’s car, was not wearing a tracking collar. If the sighting is confirmed and the cat is captured and fitted with an NPS tracking collar, it would be dubbed P-122, Pratt said. But Polumiskov offered a Hollywood-themed nickname.

Residents were advised to give the big cat plenty of space if they see him.

“He wasn’t afraid of the lights, that’s why you know they’re calling this cat the Leonardo DiCaprio,” Polumiskov said. “P-22 was the Brad Pitt of the Hollywood Hills. This this will be the Leonardo DiCaprio because he’s not afraid of lights.”

Last week in Woodland Hills, a homeowner reported a mountain lion in her backyard, but it was much smaller than the one in Polumiskov’s neighborhood.

J.P. Rose, urban wildlands policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the sighting a “wonderful reminder that iconic pumas live among us, even in one of the most populated cities in the U.S.”

“Like P-22, this young cat has to navigate dangerous roads, development and poisons on the landscape to survive,” Rose said in a statement. “It’s good timing that state lawmakers are voting on two bills this week that would improve wildlife connectivity and restrict the use of deadly rat poisons. Let’s hope they use this opportunity to pass the Room to Roam Act and the Poison-free Wildlife Act so our wild neighbors can thrive.”

P-22 was long the face of the NPS’ lion-tracking project.

He was euthanized in December 2022 after a series of strange behavior that led to concerns about his health. Experts captured the cat and determined he was suffering from an array of health problems, leading to the decision to euthanize him.

The sighting comes about a month after construction of a freeway wildlife crossing designed to preserve Southern California’s mountain lions and other animals reached a significant milestone.

Construction crews installed the first girder that will support the crossing’s horizontal span across the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills. The giant girder was lifted into place overnight on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, a greenspace bridge in Liberty Canyon near Agoura Hills.

The crossing will provide more room to roam for mountain lions and other animals hemmed in by urban sprawl. Big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures will have a safe route to open space in the Santa Monica Mountains and better access to food and potential mates.

It is estimated that the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains could become extinct within 50 years without an influx of genetic diversity. The lions are largely isolated due to freeways that act as barriers to movement across the region.

Conservationists hope the $85 million crossing will alleviate the problem

The star of the fundraising campaign was P-22. Famous for traveling across two freeways and making a huge Los Angeles park his home, the big cat became a symbol of the shrinking genetic diversity of wild animals that must remain all but trapped by sprawling development or risk becoming roadkill.

Vehicles and toxicants, like rat poisons, are two of the biggest threats to mountain lions in Southern California.

Scientists tracking cougars fitted with GPS collars found over decades that roadways are largely confining animals in mountains that run along the Malibu coast and across the middle of LA to Griffith Park, where P-22 settled.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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