Beth Pratt-Bergstrom literally wrote the book on coexisting with wildlife. “When Mountain Lions are Neighbors,” published last year by the National Wildlife Federation, tells a story that Eastern Sierra residents have been living for years, but that some of their urban neighbors are just now beginning to experience as resourceful wild animals begin to reclaim city settings.
In her book, Pratt-Bergstrom expresses a tone of admiration (and, as she herself admits, a hint of anthropomorphism) for intrepid animals eking out a living among their homo sapiens neighbors. Pratt-Bergstrom tells the tales of bears habituated and then made wild once again, foxes raising their families on the Facebook campus in Silicon Valley, and one very famous mountain lion who has become a media darling in Los Angeles.
The author is probably most well known for her almost obsessive love of P-22, the young mountain lion who crossed two major L.A. freeways (the 405 and the 101) from the Santa Monica Mountains to instill himself as the king of the urban jungle in the 8 square miles of Griffith Park. Just the sheer feat of his crossing those seas of rushing cars has captivated people. How did he do it? “My guess? He probably did what most of us do when confronted with the Los Angeles freeways: floor it and hope for the best,” she writes in her book.
Adult male mountain lions can occupy up to 250 square miles. P-22’s range is the smallest ever recorded for an adult male. And although he’s living in a Shangri-La of deer (he was also accused of killing one of the L.A. Zoo’s koalas—the zoo famously looked the other way), he’s likely to never find a mate due to his geographic isolation. He left the Santa Monica mountains because he could not compete with dominant males for territory, but now he’s a lonely bachelor—and who can’t relate to that? Angelenos are enamored with him.
Pratt-Bergstrom runs P-22’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, and she went so far as to get a tattoo of the lion’s face on her bicep—one month before her wedding in 2014.
Although P-22 led Pratt-Bergstrom down the rabbit hole of researching urban wildlife, city-dwelling cougars take up only one chapter of the book, which covers topics most Eastside residents deal with daily.
What shines through in “When Mountain Lions are Neighbors” is the wonder in the way animals and humans interact with one another, and an attempt to discover why many humans wish to protect animals that they may never lay eyes upon.
“Mountain lions are a good example,” says Pratt-Bergstrom, “because nobody sees them, but yet we’re still wanting to protect them.”