Native Americans call for tribal burial of P-22 at Griffith Park

Discussions continue over what will be done with the remains of Los Angeles' beloved mountain lion P-22. 

The popular cat was euthanized Dec. 17 after it was discovered that the 12-year-old had been suffering from chronic health problems and severe injuries. 

On Friday, the remains of P-22 arrived at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. Upon his arrival, tribal representatives led a blessing ceremony welcoming P-22 "back to his homeland," the museum said.

"Decisions regarding next steps will continue to be made together with local Tribes, with more information provided as it becomes available," the museum said in a statement on Facebook.

RELATED: P-22, LA's famous mountain lion, remembered at memorial hike at Griffith Park

Additionally, the museum said it is talking with Native American communities including descendants and representatives from several Chumash, Gabrieleño/Tongva and Tataviam tribes "to help navigate this unprecedented situation."

The museum emphasized that physically preserving or exhibiting the beloved puma will not be an option.

"We want to ensure that multiple voices are heard around the respectful consideration of his remains," the NHMLA tweeted, "which includes the clear confirmation that the museum will NOT taxidermy or display his remains."

NHMLA also met with descendants from the Gabrielino-Shoshone, Akimel O’otham and Luiseño tribes for the blessing ceremony. 

Museum officials said they did not plan to taxidermy P-22's body or put his remains on display, according to the Los Angeles Times

Known as the "Hollywood Cat," P-22 became the face of the NPS' lion-tracking effort. His exploits were documented in various media accounts, including the freeway crossings, hiding out under a Los Feliz home in a standoff that drew widespread attention and even being named a suspect in the killing of a koala at the Los Angeles Zoo.

A medical evaluation conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife revealed P-22 had undergone "significant trauma" to his head, right eye and internal organs after apparently being hit by a car.

Along with the injuries, veterinarians also found that P-22 had kidney disease, chronic weight loss, arthritis and an "extensive parasitic skin infection over his entire body."

"P-22's advanced age, combined with chronic, debilitating, life-shortening conditions and the clear need for extensive long-term veterinary intervention left P-22 with no hope for a positive outcome," the CDFW said in a press release.

Since early November, authorities said he’s been involved in at least five incidents with people and their pets, including the killing of a Chihuahua, and another dog that was attacked but survived his injuries. At that time, authorities said P-22 would either spend its last days in specialized sanctuary or the possibility or be euthanized. 

"It was a tough decision. It was the correct decision. This animal did not deserve to suffer," said California Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation Beth Pratt.

P-22's connection to the community was felt across the region.

"RIP P-22," community organizer Christian La Mont tweeted after P-22's passing. "He wasn't just a big cat. He was a symbol of resistance. Resistance to the idea that LA has no wildlife, to development in his own backyard, to dwindling numbers of mountain lions in SoCal. He lived his 9 cat lives to the fullest & captured our hearts."

Karen Tongson called P-22 "the last, true Hollywood celeb. Thanks for putting up with all of humanity's bull---. I'm sorry we couldn't do right by you in the end."

After he was euthanized, the museum tweeted that its staff's "hearts are broken," and pledged to "continue to share his story and honor his legacy as L.A.'s ambassador for urban wildlife conservation."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also honored the Hollywood Cat with a sweet tribute on Twitter hailing him as an "icon."

"His incredible journey helped inspire a new era of urban conservation, including the world's largest wildlife crossing in CA," Newsom said. "I grew up loving these cats. Thinking of my dad today who was a wildlife activist [and] taught me about protecting these precious animals."

The lion, one of many Southland-area cats being tracked by National Park Service researchers, gained fame locally for his persistence and durability, successfully managing to cross both the 405 and 101 freeways to reach his recent roaming grounds in the Griffith Park area.

He is believed to have been born in the Santa Monica Mountains, somehow finding his way to his tiny, nine-square- mile home in Griffith Park, separated from his birth area by two of the busiest freeways in the world.

Defying expectations, he persisted for more than 10 years in the smallest home range that has ever been recorded for an adult male mountain lion.

He was initially captured and outfitted with a tracking collar in 2012. At the time of his last capture, he weighed 123 pounds.

Officials hope the completion of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing project near Agoura Hills will dramatically improve conditions for the region's sparse mountain lion population. The crossing will span over 10 lanes of the Ventura (101) Freeway in Liberty Canyon when completed in 2025, and aims to provide a connection between the small population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and the larger and genetically diverse populations to the north.

"Mountain lion P-22 was more than just a celebrity cat. He was also a critical part of a long-term research study and a valuable ambassador for the cause of connectivity and for wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains and beyond," according to a statement from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Officials at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County said they planned to update "The Story of P-22, L.A.'s Most Famous Feline," a permanent exhibit that debuted in 2017, in the coming year, with added stories, programs and more. The museum also recently debuted a P-22 marionette that allows a performing artist team to further bring his story to life.

City News Service contributed to this report.