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Griffith Park mountain lion has some visitors worried, some unfazed

August 14, 2012 |  8:30 am

More photos: A mountain lion has settled in Griffith Park

A mountain lion at Griffith Park?

"I don't believe it," said Maria Reynoso of Burbank. "It's like ghosts -- unless I see them I don't believe in them," she added. "I know it's a silly thing to say." 

Sitting in her car at the Griffith Park pony ride parking lot Monday, Reynoso said she wasn't too worried about the mountain lion who has made the L.A. park home. She said she usually jogs around a golf course not far from the park ranger headquarters and that she rarely wanders up the mountain. Even with a wildcat roaming freely, she said, she'd keep her jogging routine. 

Photos: A mountain lion has settled in Griffith Park

"Nothing's going to deter me from coming to the park," Reynoso said. 

While there have been sporadic rumors over the years of the 140-pound animals prowling the populated hillsides surrounding the park's attractions, experts said they were likely just that — rumors.

It was too unlikely, they said, that the animals would cross the freeways to get there.

For the first time, however, scientists now have proof of a mountain  lion -- one they have named P-22 -- inhabiting the park.

"We never had any definitive proof of a mountain lion living in Griffith Park," said Jeff Sikich, a National Park Service biologist. "We believe this is pretty significant, that it's surrounded by such intense urbanization."

Parkgoers were surprised -- and intrigued.

"That's crazy," said Edwin Bulaon, 42, of Tujunga, on learning of the cat as he finished riding his bicycle through the park Monday.

Not far from where Reynoso sat, three young French women vacationing in Los Angeles talked among themselves at a picnic table.

Holding a travel guidebook, 20-year-old Josephine Paulfoos said they had come to the park to see the Griffith Observatory. Asked if the book said anything about the wildlife in the park, Paulfoos said: "Just a zoo."

The women seemed unfazed when told a mountain lion had been roaming around. But they gasped shortly after a reporter said "puma" and showed cellphone images of the creature.

"Scary," Paulfoos said. The other women spoke in French. One whispered Lynx, the French word for bobcat.

A mile away, near the park ranger headquarters, Joe O'Leary and Heidi Weinreich walked along a trail with their small dog, Sitka. The pair said they weren't surprised by the news. They had heard stories that there had been mountain lions in the area.

Weinreich said she would be more cautious and alert. She worried the mountain lion may one day keep her away from the park.

"I would hate to avoid the place I love," she said. 

Not far, at Shane's Inspiration playground, parents expressed concern over the decision by biologists to allow the mountain lion to remain in the park. 

"It makes no sense," said Billy Smith of Burbank. "I'm really shocked."

Smith, 47, who was at the playground with his 3-year-old daughter, Alia, said biologists who trapped and collared the mountain lion in the park should have released it "somewhere far away" rather than where they found it.

Smith said he is concerned that even with biologists tracking the puma's movement, authorities wouldn't be quick enough to react if the animal ever came across a human.  He also said  that if an animal was able to cross the city landscape to the park, there's no reason it couldn't travel from the park's backcountry to more frequently visited areas.

"Animals are precious, but this here is precious too," Smith said, holding his daughter. 

The Times will host a live video discussion about P-22 at 11 a.m. with reporter Martha Groves and city editor Shelby Grad. We invite you to join in on the conversation by posting comments -- and name suggestions for the lion -- below or onto The Times’ Facebook and Google Plus pages or on Twitter using the #asklatimes hashtag.


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Photo: A National Park Service photograph of P-22, the 3-year-old male mountain lion that has taken up residence at Griffith Park. Credit: National Park Service / March 28, 2012