Cougar Town

Roman Mars [00:00:01] This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. Back in February of 2012, Miguel Ordeñana went on a hike in Los Angeles’s famous Griffith Park. The trail he took led him to a hill that looks out over the Hollywood Bowl and the Ford Amphitheater. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:00:19] It was one of my favorite spots to collect data from because I would get these really beautiful photos of animals because I had this beautiful view of the sky and L.A. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:00:31] Miguel is a wildlife biologist who studies animals inside the city of Los Angeles. As a kid, he and his mom lived in a duplex in Los Feliz on the south side of Griffith Park. 

Roman Mars [00:00:42] That’s producer Ruxandra Guidi. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:00:44] On his hike, Miguel walked through canyons of dark green chaparral, collecting footage from a set of motion activated trail cameras. He used the trail cams as part of his research for the U.S. Forest Service, monitoring the animals that call the park home. When he got back to his office, Miguel started sorting through the images. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:01:05] Usually what my brain kind of gets used to is seeing a bunch of, like, empty photos–because grass often triggers my camera–or a bunch of deer and rabbit photos. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:01:16] Every now and then, his cameras would pick up other animals, too, like coyotes. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:01:21] Maybe even a gray fox, if I’m lucky because I just learned that gray foxes were in the park as well. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:01:28] But this time around, he didn’t see any coyotes or foxes. Instead, he saw something even more extraordinary. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:01:36] All of a sudden, I get this big puma butt on my computer screen, and I’m just blown away. I literally jump out of my seat. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:01:42] A puma butt. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:01:44] I’m in shock. I even go back a few photos and come back to it just to kind of refresh my eyes to make sure it’s not a Great Dane because often people will walk their dogs in front of my camera, and that’s a big animal. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:01:58] But this was obviously a puma, which is also commonly called a cougar or a mountain lion. It had a shiny coat of sandy brown fur, muscular legs, huge furry paws. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:02:11] And there’s also even this little black marking, which is left by males as scent marking residue that only males produce. So not only did I know it was a mountain lion, but we were able to confirm that it was a male just by this butt photo. 

Roman Mars [00:02:27] Mountain lions are classified as a specially protected species–not quite endangered, but close. There are somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 of them spread across the foothills and mountains of California. But here was a mountain lion in a municipal park that’s used by thousands of people every day in one of the largest, most congested cities in the country. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:02:49] This was like finding Bigfoot. This is like finding la Chupacabra or some sort of urban legend like that. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:02:57] As he stared at the puma’s butt on his computer screen, Miguel couldn’t help but wonder, “How on earth did this mountain lion end up here?” 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:03:06] Where did he come from? How did he get there? What’s going to happen next? What’s going to happen to this mountain land? Is he going to try and escape and get hit by a car? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:03:14] There was a good chance something like that could happen. Across the state, traffic accidents are the leading cause of mountain lion death. And yet, somehow, this one had miraculously survived the trek across LA’s busiest highways. Researchers say it’s the first documented case of a cougar making it this far into the urban core without getting run over and killed. But now he was effectively stuck, surrounded on all sides by an ocean of freeways and crowded neighborhoods. 

Roman Mars [00:03:45] Wildlife and urban development don’t usually go well together. Roads, in particular, fracture the habitats of wide-ranging animals; it restricts their movements and makes it harder for them to find food or a mate. However, in the years since Miguel first discovered Griffith Park’s mountain lion, biologists and urban planners have started working together, crafting a plan to try to help pumas move more safely around the city. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:04:09] And in the process, this one cat has turned into something of a celebrity, a symbol of a movement to redesign our cities and make the built environment more friendly to animals. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:04:30] I met up with Miguel this past winter on the edge of Griffith Park. A decade later, the mountain lion still calls this place home. And he has a name now. P-22. 

Roman Mars [00:04:41] It’s catchy. I like it. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:04:43] Super catchy. P-22 stands for “Puma Number 22.” It was given to him by the National Park Service, which for the past 20 years has been tracking more than a hundred other mountain lions across Southern California. Just after Miguel’s discovery, the Park Service captured and tagged P-22 with a GPS collar. By following his movements, they’ve been able to get a better sense of his health, the size of his territory, and his ability to reproduce. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:05:11] They did match his genetics with a male that they studied, who is his dad–P-1, which stands for “Puma One.” And he is the first puma ever studied by the National Park Service. And he was a vicious individual. 

Roman Mars [00:05:30] For years, P-22’s dad–P-1–was the dominant male cougar in the Santa Monica mountains. He fathered litters of cubs with the female mountain lions who roamed his territory. But when he couldn’t find a mate, he started mating with his offspring. Low genetic diversity is a problem among all mountain lions in the Santa Monica mountains. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:05:48] P-1 was also fiercely territorial. When his cubs started taking up a lot of his space, he started killing his offspring. It’s possible that P-22 survived his father’s wrath by making this unlikely journey to Griffith Park. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:06:03] So I know basically his favorite hangouts and spots, which are trails, funnels, canyons, intersections in trails, places where you see scat tracks or these other signs called scrapes where they, like, kick for the back feet like this. We might see some up there. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:06:23] Miguel is kicking up the dirt gently with his feet so I can try to picture these scrapes. And now I’m looking for signs of a cougar on our trail, checking the ground for scat. There’s a part of me that wants to see P-22, but a bigger part does not. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:06:40] He blends in so well, so quiet that he just can be right over there. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:06:49] But even if he is right over there, he’s likely to stay hidden in the park’s steep canyons and caves. Mountain lions may come off as ferocious in our imaginations, but in reality, they’re actually pretty timid. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:07:03] They’re not like the big cats. Leopards, and African lions, and jaguars are a little bit more bold and fierce. They’re a little bit like your cat that is a little bit like a scaredy-cat, basically. 

Roman Mars [00:07:22] In the last decade, there’s been no evidence of other mountain lions coming into P-22’s territory–partly because they too would have to survive the treacherous journey from the Santa Monica Mountains across Interstate 45 and Highway 101–but also because Griffith Park is small. The typical range of a male mountain lion is 150 square miles. But P-22 has only nine square miles to work with. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:07:47] And that’s a problem because if P-22 wants to find a mate, he’d have to retrace his steps, facing busy freeways and neighborhoods, or stepping into another cougar’s territory. Do you know if he’s attempted to leave the park and go back to the Santa Monica Mountains? 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:08:04] No, but he… Well, I don’t know what he was thinking, but one time he actually crossed Barham Boulevard, which is bordering us with Universal. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:08:15] That’s Universal Studios. Apparently, someone saw P-22 literally crossing the street and reported it. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:08:22] But anyway, he crossed over, went actually into the backlot–where they do the tram tours and all that–and spent the night, and didn’t like what he experienced, and then crossed right back, and he hasn’t left ever since. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:08:35] Wow. 

Roman Mars [00:08:36] P-22 has actually left Griffith Park a number of times. He’s been spotted roaming around the Hollywood Hills and some other well-to-do neighborhoods surrounding the park. In fact, he’s become something of a local celebrity. Angelenos love to track his whereabouts. 

Reporter [00:08:51] Nearby residents like hearing about sightings of P-22 and believe he may have ventured out of Griffith Park because of the heat. 

Interviewee [00:08:58] I found him drinking from a sprinkler head that was kind of dripping down onto the sidewalk. 

Roman Mars [00:09:04] Even Stitcher’s own VP of Content and our show’s boss, Colin Anderson, had his own run-in with LA’s favorite mountain lion. 

Colin Anderson [00:09:11] I looked up and P-22 was about ten feet away from me. And one thing I was really aware of was that I was wearing sandals, and I was like, “This isn’t optimal.” My shorts and my sandals. Not dressed for a mountain lion confrontation. 

Roman Mars [00:09:29] Still, at the end of his adventures, P-22 always ends up coming back to Griffith Park. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:09:35] From one of the peaks in Griffith Park–about 1600 feet–you can get a lay of the surrounding land. To the south–the Los Feliz and Silver Lake neighborhoods with sleek palm trees in the distance. To the east is the concrete channel of the L.A. River, which runs along Interstate 5, one of the busiest freeways in California. And to the north and west is the famous Hollywood sign and another highway, the 101, which runs all the way out to the coast. From up here, you can see that P-22 really is marooned on this island. 

Roman Mars [00:10:11] But it wasn’t always like that. The Hills of Griffith Park are part of the Santa Monica Mountain Range. It’s just that developments and major roadways have chewed up large swaths of land. 

Miguel Ordeñana [00:10:22] People build to the absolute maximum and then think about wildlife–think about the repercussions–later. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:10:31] The island effect isn’t some natural occurrence. It’s the result of a series of decisions made over decades. A recent study found that if urban development continues as it has, mountain lions could disappear in Southern California within the next 50 years. The demise of such an important apex predator would have a downstream effect on the entire ecosystem. 

Beth Pratt [00:10:55] For me, P-22–like for a lot of people–was an entry into not just socially changing my thinking but scientifically. I just had really not been exposed to the science of connectivity. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:11:10] Beth Pratt is the California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. She’s a big fan of P-22–even has a tattoo of the mountain lion’s face on her shoulder. Around the time P-22 was discovered, Beth came to L.A. to research her book, When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors. She met up with a puma expert from the National Park Service who took her around town. 

Beth Pratt [00:11:35] We drove around the Santa Monica Mountains, and he’s pointing out these freeways and talking about the other cats that live there. And I was like, “Wow, this is a problem.” And it also occurred to me this is fixable. 

Roman Mars [00:11:47] Beth thought there must be a way to restitch the landscape–to make sure no other mountain lion would have to cross multiple freeways in order to roam and find a mate. She spoke with other wildlife experts about the problem, but no one had a concrete solution. 

Beth Pratt [00:12:02] They knew they needed something to help with connectivity. Was it a tunnel? Was it fencing? Was it an overpass? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:12:08] Beth and her colleagues weren’t going to turn sprawling Southern California into a safe mountain lion habitat all at once. But they needed to start somewhere, so she joined forces with other local wildlife organizations and launched a campaign called Save L.A. Cougars. The group planned to raise awareness and do more research on the local mountain lion population, but their main goal was to build a massive, first-of-its-kind, urban wildlife crossing. 

Roman Mars [00:12:41] Wildlife crossings are physical structures that help animals safely navigate human-made barriers like highways. Often, they’re built-in places where roadways cut through dense forests and other open land. Crossings have been shown to both reduce animal vehicle crashes and relink territories that different species call home. They typically come in the form of an underpass or an overpass and have been used widely in Europe for decades. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:13:06] More recently, they’ve started taking off in North America. In Canada’s Banff National Park, a network of wildlife crossings are used every day by bears, wolves, moose, elk, and yes, mountain lions–proving that a thoughtfully designed crossing in places where species tend to migrate can benefit humans and wildlife. 

Roman Mars [00:13:29] However, a wildlife overpass in a megacity like Los Angeles had never been done before. Politicians in particular were skeptical not just about the utility of an urban wildlife crossing but its price tag. This would be the biggest and most expensive crossing in the world, spanning ten lanes of highway. The California Department of Transportation had tried to get federal funding for a project like this three times in the past and failed. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:13:54] Initially, even Beth struggled to sell the idea of a wildlife crossing to her higher-ups. 

Beth Pratt [00:14:00] I had a boss when I started it who, you know, I presented, and they were like, “What? What’s a wildlife crossing? What does that do? How is that scalable?”

Ruxandra Guidi [00:14:09] The Save L.A. Cougars campaign needed to make it easier for people to get on board with their project. They needed to help people understand the importance of wildlife conservation inside the city itself to give Angelenos a clear reason to support the crossing. 

Roman Mars [00:14:25] They needed P-22. 

Beth Pratt [00:14:28] Listen, it’s no accident. You know, this is L.A., and L.A. loves their celebrities and worships them. And here’s this cat that literally lives under the Hollywood sign. He’s handsome. He’s, you know, challenged with his dating life. It is a made-for-Hollywood movie. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:14:43] Since his discovery, Angelenos have gotten to know P-22. With every passing encounter he was less a fearsome mountain lion prowling Griffith Park and more of a neighbor–someone you might run into as you take out your trash or go out on a morning walk. Save L.A. Cougars used that recognition to get people to care about the crossing. 

Roman Mars [00:15:05] The campaign also helped build a narrative around P-22. He was the young cub, struck out on his own, and by some stroke of luck, survived crossing two major highways. He then landed in Los Angeles’ most famous park, where he himself became famous. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:15:19] Except now he was isolated–alone even–needing to find a way back out. It was a story people could connect to, and many did. 

P-22 Day Attendee #1 [00:15:30] His story just resonates compared to any other animals. No other story is bigger than this one. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:15:39] Starting in 2016, the Save L.A. Cougars campaign organized an all-day festival in Griffith Park called P-22 Day. There, Angelenos can sign up for group hikes along parts of P-22’s 40-mile trek. Festivalgoers can even buy P-22 swag, like a onesie or a tote bag. And most importantly, they can donate to the wildlife crossing. The campaign held their most recent event just last month. 

P-22 Day Attendee #2 [00:16:07] Well, what I love about P-22 is that he reflects the struggles of finding a mate in the urbanized area of Los Angeles, which I feel like I face the same struggles.

Ruxandra Guidi [00:16:22] Initially, Beth felt a little strange about all of this. She and her campaign succeeded in making people care about L.A.’s mountain lions. But it wasn’t the science that brought them in. It was P-22’s celebrity. The campaign was anthropomorphizing P-22, which is something that scientists usually try to steer clear of. 

Beth Pratt [00:16:44] Listen, there are people who hate my approach to the campaign. They hate to anthropomorphize– Even people in my own organization. Like, I’m committing heresy with some of these, you know, traditional scientists. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:16:54] I’m really curious about that. Is that part of kind of an old school? Like, you do not need to. anthropomorphize or, like, tell me a story. Like, we should strictly follow the science and hope that the funding comes through. 

Beth Pratt [00:17:08] So I think just a lot of people were just educated in that very hard science mode and they have a hard time with anthropomorphizing. 

Roman Mars [00:17:15] But turning a puma into a character has gotten results. The campaign to build a wildlife crossing has raised more than $105 million from foundations and private donations–a lot of it on the back of P-22’s story. The whole thing has been a success beyond Beth and her colleagues’ wildest imaginations. 

Beth Pratt [00:17:35] And we want to welcome everybody watching to the groundbreaking for the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:17:45] Work on the crossing actually began earlier this year. Beth spoke from the site above a section of the 101 freeway, an area that P-22 may have crossed himself on his way to Griffith Park. 

Beth Pratt [00:17:58] And we are so honored to be here and celebrating with you all, who looked at this impossible dream and–like me–said, “Not on my watch. We are not going to let this mountain lion population go extinct on our watch.” 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:18:13] The backdrop of her speech was a reminder of just what a mountain lion is up against–a non-stop stream of cars and trucks. The highway itself runs parallel to the Santa Monica Mountains, separating it from the Simi Hills and the larger Los Badgers National Forest to the north. This stretch of road is the biggest obstacle for mountain lions who want to find more mates and more land. 

Roman Mars [00:18:38] And because the crossing is in a major city, designers and landscape architects have their work cut out for them to encourage animals to give the bridge a try. The team is talking to experts on light pollution, fungi, ecological restoration, fencing, and even sound design. When it’s done, it’ll be 210 feet long and 175 feet wide. 

Beth Pratt [00:18:58] So, yeah, there’s a lot of technique. We know how to mimic the habitat and attract them there. You know, one of the reasons ours is so wide is you’re going to have to make the animals feel like they’re not on the highway. We get asked, “Why can’t you just do four feet and save money?” Well, a couple animals might use it, but you need it to look like the landscape. So, like, for every foot long there’s a ratio. It has to be, you know, that much more wide. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:19:22] And once a few animals check out the crossing and see that it works, more of them will follow. 

Beth Pratt [00:19:28] Word literally gets out in the animal world. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:19:32] A few weeks back, I went out to the site of the crossing to get a feel for the landscape. So, this is the site of the future Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing in Agoura Hills. This is actually the famous neighborhood of the Kardashians. I don’t know which Kardashians, but maybe Kim? Kylie? Those are the only two I know. I was wrong. The Kardashians live about 15 minutes east from here. But anyway, you get the idea. There’s a lot of open space. You can see the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s gorgeous out here. I asked Kat Superfisky to join me at the construction site for this crossing. She’s as cool as her last name is fun to say. She’s also a designer, an educator, and the city of LA’s first urban ecologist. We’re hiking past a deep trench that starts at the edge of the site and creeps up the hill. This is one end of that future bridge, an area where wild animals are known to cross anyway, and where they would typically run into fast moving cars. 

Kat Superfisky [00:20:43] Even from where we’re standing right here, you see the clear linkage. You know, we’re standing on one kind of mountainous area. We’re looking down to another one. If you’re an animal, you’re going to want to connect to the hillsides. And so, they would, again, you know, make it up to the 101 freeway, and then they would have no option other than to cross it to get to the other side. And right now, we’re providing pretty challenging conditions for them to hop across that like Frogger. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:21:12] So, it’s good to think of this as a funnel of sorts? 

Kat Superfisky [00:21:15] Yep. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:21:16] And that’s why this site was chosen. 

Kat Superfisky [00:21:19] Exactly. Yeah. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:21:21] P-22 and Kat arrived in the city around the same time. And back then, she just wasn’t aware of the possibilities of humans coexisting with nature–with wildlife–in a place like Los Angeles. 

Kat Superfisky [00:21:35] I showed up thinking that there wasn’t going to be a lot of nature in L.A. and that I was going to be starting kind of from, you know, the concrete itself. And so, you know, it took me a couple of years to really change the way that I saw a place like L.A. And I practiced a lot peeling back the concrete, and the steel, and infrastructure and kind of crossing my eyes and staring at the landscape around me and saying, “Okay, I can still actually kind of see the mountains. The topography and the landform are still there.” 

Roman Mars [00:22:09] There is a great irony in all this. Despite all the effort, we have no way of knowing whether P-22 will actually use this bridge. The Agoura Hills are about 25 miles west of Griffith Park. Scientists say that as an older puma, he’s likely to play it safe, stay put, and accept his fate as a forever bachelor. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:22:30] But we do know that many, many other animals will use that crossing. Foxes, bobcats, deer, and other mountain lions looking to find a mate or more space to call their own. Beth and Miguel both acknowledged that they used P-22 to try to do something bigger–to begin to stitch the fragmented habitat of Los Angeles back together–to get Angelenos to start thinking of their city as an ecosystem. And these days, it’s not just scientists and environmentalists who want to talk about P-22. 

Beth Pratt [00:23:03] One mother told me her son–he thinks P-22 is a superhero. And he runs around the house with a cape and saying, “I’m P-22.” It’s that fundamental connection that is less about science that I am hopeful about because, I think, L.A. kids especially–they know these cats like they know football players. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:23:25] For all we know, P-22 is living a humble and relatively happy mountain lion life in his municipal park. But unknowingly, he’s got us on the same page about something important–not just the need to build a huge wildlife crossing in Los Angeles, but the need for coexistence, for connectivity, so that in a big city like L.A., you, me, P-22, and all the other urban-dwelling, wild animals can all feel a little less alone. 

Roman Mars [00:24:03] When we come back, a wildlife crossing in action. Did you know that over the holidays, property crimes spike nationally? That’s why SimpliSafe home security is offering 50% off their award-winning security system, so that more families can feel safe this holiday season. SimpliSafe was named the best home security system of 2022 by U.S. News and World Report. That’s a third year in a row. In an emergency, 24/7, professional monitoring agents use Fast Protect Technology exclusively from SimpliSafe to capture critical evidence and verify the threat is real, so they can get you faster police response. SimpliSafe is whole home security with advanced sensors for every room, window, and door. Plus, 24/7 professional monitoring service costs less than $1 a day. And with the top-rated SimpliSafe app, you can arm or disarm, unlock for a guest, access your cameras, or adjust system settings. You can tell that good design is a priority with SimpliSafe because the devices are sleek, they’re easy to set up, and they’re very easy to use. Don’t miss your chance to save big on this highly recommended security system. Get 50% off any new SimpliSafe system at today. This is their biggest discount of the year, so don’t wait. That’s There’s no safe like SimpliSafe. This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. Life doesn’t come with a user manual. So, when it’s not working for you, it’s normal to feel stuck. And even if there was a manual, every situation is different, which is why you need a qualified, caring person to help you figure yourself out. Therapists are trained to help you figure out the cause of challenging emotions and learn productive coping skills. It’s the closest thing to a guided tour of the complex engine called “you.” BetterHelp offers all the benefits of in-person therapy. Plus, it’s more convenient, more accessible, and more affordable. As the world’s largest therapy service, BetterHelp has matched 3 million people with professionally licensed and vetted therapists available 100% online. Plus, it’s affordable. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to match with a therapist. If things aren’t clicking, you can easily switch to a new therapist any time. It couldn’t be simpler. No waiting rooms, no traffic, no endless searching for the right therapist. Learn more and save 10% off your first month at That’s Squarespace is the online platform for building your brand and growing your business online. Nothing is too niche for Squarespace. Whatever your hobby is, whatever your interests are, you can start a business for it. Say you’re really into the ambient soundscape of your house growing up, so you could start a whole business selling whirring VCRs, hissing and pinging radiators, and ticking analog wall clocks. Just call it, set up your Squarespace page, and you’re off to the races. With Squarespace email campaigns, you’ll stand out in any inbox. Start with an email template and customize it to apply your brand ingredients like site colors and logo. Built-in analytics measure the impact of every cent. Squarespace’s insights can help grow your business. You can even build a marketing strategy based on your top keywords or most popular products and content, thanks to Squarespace Analytics. Heads for a free trial, and when you’re ready to launch, use the promo code “invisible” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. Just because we spend most of our time unconscious–and quite possibly drooling in our bedrooms–doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style. Article has everything you need to turn your bedroom into your best friend–all for a great price. Article offers cozy beds, swanky headboards, and tons of lighting options to help you set the tone. Article combines the curation of a boutique furniture store with the comfort and simplicity of shopping online. Article’s team of designers are dedicated to a modern aesthetic of mid-century, Scandinavian, industrial, and bohemian designs. Fast affordable shipping is available across the USA and Canada and is free on orders over $999. All in-stock items are delivered in two weeks or less. Article cuts out the middleman and sells directly to you. There’s no showrooms. There’s no salespeople. There’s no retail markups. So, you can save up to 30% over traditional prices. A couple of days ago, I had coffee with our intern, Sarah Baik, and her partner, and he asked me–point-blank–he’s like, “Do you really have all that Article furniture?” I absolutely do. It’s all over the house–including… I sleep on an article bed. So, you should get one, too. Article is offering our listeners $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. To claim, visit, and a discount will automatically be applied at checkout. That’s for $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. All right. I’m back with our producer, Ruxandra Guidi. Rux, you have one more thing that you want to share with us about these wildlife crossings? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:29:23] Yeah, I have one more quick and kind of a silly thing. Except I know I’m not the only one who geeks out on this stuff. So, I’m going to have you open up this clip and watch it with me. It’s really short. So, we’ll just play the whole clip. 

Roman Mars [00:29:39] Okay. So, it’s a coyote jumping through a tunnel, and it seems to be playing with a badger, trying to get it to follow it down the tunnel. Is that what I’ve seen? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:29:50] Exactly. It’s like these two buddies are meeting up by the end of the tunnel. And I just love how excited the coyote is. He looks just like a dog when he spots his leash somewhere and he’s ready to go for a walk. 

Roman Mars [00:30:01] Totally. Totally. This is so great. So, what is going on in this clip? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:30:05] Well, it went viral about two years ago. And what I love about it is that the tunnel they are merrily strolling through–it’s actually a wildlife crossing. 

Roman Mars [00:30:13] Oh, okay. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:30:14] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And this one specifically is a wildlife underpass. And it’s in California, further up the 101, up near Gilroy–a few miles south of San Jose. 

Roman Mars [00:30:24] And this is the same one that runs through L.A. and is a big problem for, you know, mountain lions in the area that we were talking about in the story. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:30:31] Yeah, exactly. And so, this underpass was built to seemingly help with that habitat fracturing and to prevent roadkill–not to mention all the accidents and deaths that vehicle-animal collisions create, you know. 

Roman Mars [00:30:44] Which is not a small number. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:30:45] No, not at all. Research shows that there are between 1 and 2 million vehicle and large animal collisions every year in the U.S. And thousands of those accidents result in some sort of human injury and sometimes even human deaths. 

Roman Mars [00:30:59] Yeah. And almost always the death of the animal, too. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:31:03] Oh, yeah, definitely. 

Roman Mars [00:31:05] So what we’re seeing in this video with this underpass, and this coyote, and this badger–is this typical behavior for these two, or is the underpass, like, causing them to behave differently? What is going on? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:31:18] You know, that’s a great question. Coyotes and badgers were not widely known to hunt together until kind of recently. And this video shows that dynamic because a coyote can chase and catch its prey and a badger can dig if the prey heads underground. So, the video helped show scientists this collaboration among species. 

Roman Mars [00:31:38] So it’s like, you know, they’re doing what they normally do. They just happen to be doing it while crossing under the 101. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:31:43] That’s right. Exactly. If anything, the underpass facilitated them to go on and do the thing that they do. And, you know, there’s a lot of videos out there documenting animals using a crossing. There’s this video of a Florida panther and its kittens going under an interstate in Florida–and a bobcat and her kittens sort of excitedly prancing under a bridge in Salinas, California. 

Roman Mars [00:32:04] I mean, I would imagine–just like turning P-22 into a celebrity to make a wildlife crossing happen–that a video like this, you know, reinforces that this is an issue, that there should be awareness of it, and when it’s solved, it’s extremely adorable. And so, knowing these stories and seeing these videos like this, is it really changing the way people are thinking about wildlife crossings when they’re doing new construction? 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:32:33] Yeah. Actually, just recently a bill was passed in California that makes the California Department of Transportation prioritize crossings when they’re working on or building new roadways. 

Roman Mars [00:32:45] Well, that sounds like a good thing. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:32:46] It is a very good thing. But, like, the real solution would be to stop building so many damn roads in the first place so that these animals wouldn’t have to cross our busy highways. 

Roman Mars [00:32:58] That’s true. Yeah. This doesn’t have to be a problem that we solve. This could be just a problem that we just don’t create. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:33:04] There you go. Yeah. 

Roman Mars [00:33:06] Well, thanks again for sharing the story with us, Ruxandra. We really appreciate it. 

Ruxandra Guidi [00:33:09] Thank you, Roman. 

Roman Mars [00:33:16] 99% Invisible was produced this week by Ruxandra Guidi, edited by Jayson De Leon and Emmett Fitzgerald. Sound mix by Martín Gonzalez. Music by our Director of Sound, Swan Real. Fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Delaney Hall is the senior editor. Kurt Kohlstedt is the digital director. Olivia Green is our intern. The rest of the team includes Vivian Le, Lasha Madan, Chris Berube, Christopher Johnson, Jeyca Maldonado Medina, Kelly Prime, Joe Rosenberg, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora Building… in beautiful… uptown… Oakland, California. You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99pi at

Noir Announcer [00:34:26] Forget it, Stitcher. It’s Cougar Town. 

  1. Carl Boyd

    Great story. I love the street planning aspect of something the old school planners always ignore (like so many things). This reminds me of the time a cougar was found in my Northside neighborhood of Chicago about 15 years ago. Unfortunately the cops defaulted to their typical response and shot it dead ☹️

  2. Well done to the 99PI team. As an engineer, to me the most fascinating part of this episode was the discussion on “why do you even need to personify a mountain lion in order to get this crossing built – shouldn’t the science be enough?” Sometimes, despite our most sincere attempts to convince the world with logic, an endearing P-22 story is the only thing that ends up working!

  3. Kakurady

    P-22 was captured in December 2022 and euthanized, after an examination found he was suffering from multiple chronic health conditions and severe injuries possibly from being struck by a vehicle.

  4. Joe T

    A sad coda: P-22 was compassionately euthanized in December 2022 after a health exam. In addition to kidney issues and skin parasites, P-22 had injuries consistent with a vehicle strike. California Department of Fish and Wildlife notes in their press release that these injuries are “not the fault of P-22, nor of a driver who may have hit him. Rather, it is an eventuality that arises from habitat loss and fragmentation, and it underscores the need for thoughtful construction of wildlife crossings and well-planned spaces that provide wild animals room to roam.”


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