Did a Famous L.A. Mountain Lion Kill a Koala?

A koala named Killarney was found mauled to death about 350 feet from her enclosure last week at the Los Angeles Zoo. The mountain lion known as P-22 is a prime suspect in the case.

Unlike the zoo’s other 10 koalas, Killarney had a habit of climbing down from the eucalyptus trees at night and wandering around the enclosure.

A surveillance video shows P-22, who wears a GPS device on a collar,  inside the zoo the night before Killarney disappeared, but there is no recording of him attacking the koala. Photos also captured P-22 in the facility several times late at night over the past month, but no other zoo animals were killed or injured. The zoo is surrounded by an 8-foot fence topped with a foot of barbed wire.

“When you lose an animal that suddenly, it’s tough,” Beth Schaefer, general curator of the zoo, told the Los Angeles Times. “But we love P-22 too. So, you’re torn. This is his home too. This is his park. It’s just like, why did you have to come in here, P-22?”

P-22 is famous around Los Angeles – and was featured in a National Geographic article — for being the only mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park, where he manages to subside on a diet of mule deer, coyotes and raccoons. He was in the news recently for his remarkable recovery from a severe case of mange, which was probably caused by the ingestion of rat poison.

Did P-22 kill Killarney?

“We’ve looked at the GPS evidence, and of course talked to the zoo and looked at the enclosure, and it’s really inconclusive,” Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service told KABC. “He was in the area, but our GPS points are separated by two hours, so we can’t say for sure.”

Kuykendall said it’s possible the culprit could have been a bobcat or other predator.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence proving P-22 was the koala’s killer, Los Angeles Zoo officials had the option of having the mountain lion hunted down and killed. Fortunately they opted to spare his life. They are considering raising the walls around the zoo to more successfully keep out predators. The koalas are now being kept indoors at night.

Should P-22 Be Removed from Griffith Park?

Los Angeles Councilman Mitch O’Farrell wants to oust P-22 from Griffith Park.

“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,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

O’Farrell doesn’t represent the Griffith Park area, but Councilman David Ryu does – and he wants P-22 to stay put.

“The incident at the Los Angeles Zoo is incredibly unfortunate; however, relocating P-22 would not be in the best interest of protecting our wildlife species,” Ryu said in a statement. “Mountain lions are a part of the natural habitat of Griffith Park and the adjacent hillsides.”

Another solution in the planning stages is a corridor across the busy 101 Freeway, so P-22 and other wildlife can safely leave their limited habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains and travel to the Sierra Madre Mountains north of Los Angeles.

In the meantime, wildlife officials don’t think P-22 should be feared more than he was before.

“P-22 lives in an urban park visited by millions of people and is rarely seen, demonstrating what we already know: It is possible to peacefully coexist, and the risk of danger is very low,” Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, California director of the National Wildlife Federation, told the L.A. Times.

Photo credit: National Park Service

71 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Shin Takahashi
Shin T2 years ago

Please don't kill any kind of animals.Save them all.

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mari s.
Mari S2 years ago

Do NOT KILL OFF any animal -- build better protections for the sweet koalas ensuring they remain happy, secure, healthy & comfy -- ensure the lion remains safe, happy, healthy & comfy no matter where his territory -- the best we can DO now is to safeguard all the animals checking that such a tragedy will NEVER be repeated.

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Maureen King
Maureen King2 years ago

Leave the mountain lion alone.
Build higher walls. Animals should be enclosed in a safe area at night.
A corridor across the freeway should be an absolute must.
How hard are those solutions.!!!!!
So many sensible and intelligent comments. Well said. Cheers all.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE2 years ago

It is in his nature, but I do feel sorry for the koala bear.

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Elisabeth Hansson
Elisabeth H2 years ago

tyfs

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Patricia Harris
John T2 years ago

I agree with the comments that mentions the nature of mountain lions. If P-22 did actually kill the koala, he would have eaten it instead of just leaving it behind. A mountain lions ALWAYS eats it's kill!!

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Frances Bell
Frances Bell2 years ago

I suppose it would be too easy to stop stocking zoos with vulnerable prey??? Yet another reason why I can't abide captive environments

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Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

Building a corridor across the 101 freeway would benefit a lot of wildlife. All highways should have these corridors. As for P-22, leave him alone!! He's only doing what he can to live. It's the zoo's responsibility to provide protection for their animals.

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Christeen Anderson
Christeen A2 years ago

Probably. Better care should be taken at these facilities.

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