Local wildlife updates…including a very animated Darwin

I thought you might like to have an update on our local mountain lion, “P22.”  Until recently he was only known as the focus of federal biologists studying his habits to better understand how mountain lions, a protected species in California, survive in an increasingly urbanized habitat.

Born in the Santa Monica mountains, he crossed the 405 and 101 freeways (if you don’t live here you have NO idea what a feat that is even for a mountain lion) and then proceeded to make his home in Griffith Park, 4,310 acres of both natural chaparral-covered terrain, vast hiking areas, parkland and picnic areas.

P22’s notoriety spiked with last month’s mauling death of Australian-born koala, Killarney. The Los Angeles Zoo, one of the many public venues and landmark locations within Griffith Park, has taken the position of moving the koalas indoors at night while continuing to monitor the situation.

Killarney, an older koala, was not in a tree with the younger koalas, but on the ground, and an easy target. The zoo could have been granted a depredation permit to have P22 captured, relocated or euthanized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but instead the zoo’s official position is to make adaptations to the animal habitats and monitor P22 before making any further changes to his comfort in Griffith Park.

I have a feeling we may hear from him again. Stay tuned.

Sometimes the answer is animal rescue.

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We enjoyed a pleasant day on a recent visit to the Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar, a center for rescued wildlife. Dedicated to onsite education in wildlife biology it’s a great place to visit with young children. The Center is home to animals confiscated from people who kept them as illegal pets or are no longer able to provide adequate housing. Some have been rehabilitated  after being brought to the center for care, but are determined non-releasable. The giraffe in the photos was on property next door to the Wildlife Learning Center.

It isn’t a very large facility, but it’s worth visiting and supporting. While there, I found these animals charming enough to bring home with me.


And speaking of animals that live in our home, it’s time to share a Darwin update. He continues to be so entertaining. He is no ordinary tortoise. He comes when I call him and follows us around like a dog if he’s hungry.

He didn’t eat much at all from December to February, but he’s making up for it now with pumpkin, aloe, grass, timothy hay, hibiscus flowers and if I didn’t confine him, he’d forage my entire garden.

This past weekend we were in the backyard and heard commotion coming from the greenhouse/potting shed he uses as his winter home. I grabbed my phone and started recording the activity, thinking you might enjoy seeing him in action.

He finally settled into a slight burrow. If we didn’t monitor him, however, I am not entirely sure where he’d end up!

There are many opportunities for urban Angelenos to interact with wildlife and I am offering Darwin as my contribution to Jude’s March challenge to photograph backyard wildlife.

In case you’re not convinced Darwin qualifies as wildlife, let me share from Malibu based American Tortoise Rescue, calling upon the pet industry and private breeders to stop selling sulcatas.

Susan Tellem, co-founder of the organization said, “New owners quickly become aware of the difficulties associated with having a potentially destructive non-housebroken animal of this size. A fully-grown sulcata is strong and aggressive and can easily move furniture and damage or destroy a typical house or apartment wall. When they start to dig up the property, it looks something like a mine field.”

I rest my case.


39 thoughts on “Local wildlife updates…including a very animated Darwin

    1. He really is! My greatest concern is that he will burrow so deep and far in that we can’t reach him. I have a friend with a sulfate that does burrow underground all winter and she worries, but let’s him do what he wants to do. I think she’s probably correct in terms of respecting the tortoises instinct, but I just can’t do it! We are going to work on his overall habitat this summer and perhaps provide a space where he can did a little more. He sure does go to town, doesn’t he?

  1. Darwin keeps amazing his followers. 🙂 As for P22 I’m glad the zoo decided to not use the depredation permit. I think we need to find ways that human beings and nature can coexist side by side.

    1. I do agree with you, Otto. I couldn’t imagine the Zoo would even consider euthanizing the mountain lion, but I was sure they would at least seriously consider removing him from Griffith Park. I’m glad they’re going to try to work out their territorial differences. 🙂

    1. We had a large cabinet in the shed at one time. He undermined it with his digging and it fell over and broke a lot of pots and made a big mess. He really is something! We continue to have a lot of questions about how we’re going to care for him in the future. If I can get some help with the camera I must capture a video of him coming when I call him. There’s a lot going on in that little brain. 🙂

    1. He’d better not think the grass is greener somewhere else! There is no one that I know who would baby this big guy more than I do! On the other hand, maybe he finds my supervision annoying. 🙂

    1. Easter Sunday Darwin got hung up on one the fences we use as a barrier. We had a very hard time “unhooking” him without damaging his shell. He’s a force, to be sure! As for the other two “wild” animals, I’m sure going to be sorry when they are too grown up to enjoy having their photos taken in animal cut-outs. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy Darwin, Kevin. I just must get a video soon of him following us around like a dog! He is just hilarious! I do worry about him a bit, though, I admit.

    1. We did have a nice Easter, Jo. Thank you. I hope I can share some more photos of our wild kingdom soon! Darwin is quite entertaining. I need to keep my video handy! 🙂

  2. First of all, I would have brought those rare and darling animals home, too. What cuties.
    I, too, was happy to hear the zoo is looking toward peaceful co-existence with P22. Many of these smaller zoos and wildlife centers provide a haven for animals that are hurt. They care for them, help them heal, and often give them a refuge when they cannot be released.. Your photos are wonderful. I was especially drawn to the owl photos.
    Darwin. What a digger! I can’t believe how quickly and determinedly he dug through the dirt. I never tire of the tales of Darwin and am in awe and respect of how lovingly you nurture him, Debra. Have a happy Easter and a good weekend.

    1. Penny, Darwin is getting so strong and powerful this summer we will absolutely be required to come up with a larger habitat, and more secure. I honestly don’t know how creative we can be with the space we have left. He is a force, as you can see. 🙂

  3. I wonder if you could train him to give you a helping hand when you are gardening! Interesting to be kept up-to-date on your mountain lion. Apparently a wolf was sighted south of Munich last week… our first thought was how on earth he managed to get across all the motorways in that region. He has disappeared though and hopefully is back in a nice wooded area away from humanity! There are a few wild wolfpacks in Germany, but in barely populated areas with few major roads.

    1. Your comment about the wolf sighting and wondering how he crossed the motorways is so interesting to me, Cathy. I think that the convergence between population centers and wildlife must be more prevalent than we know. I would imagine there is much more movement at night and we just don’t see! I do agree with you in hoping that the wolf packs are not too close to pets and humans. And as for Darwin, oh if only I could put him to work in the garden. He eats everything in sight, so that’s a problem. I’m actually growing hibiscus bushes with the only purpose of feeding him the flowers. Now that’s a turn of events I never would have foreseen. 🙂

  4. The girls are precious, Debra! I love seeing other grandies and how other grandparents feature them. ❤
    The tortose, Darwin, is no longer sluggish or hibernating! Something funny about this burst of energy! 😀
    Happy Easter to you and your family, Debra.

    1. Thank you, Robin. I did have a very nice Easter and I hope you did as well. Flash forward just a few years and maybe you can help me imagine what I’m going to do with Darwin, twice the size is today! I’m in trouble, don’t you think? 🙂

  5. It is so sad to see the animals that thoughtless people brought into their homes. I wonder what it will take to convince people to leave these animals in their natural environments. I don’t know how to feel about the Park’s response to the loss of the koala. Once in my teen years, I was at the Detroit Zoo on a warm Sunday afternoon when a peacock somehow freed itself from its enclosure and took flight. It landed on a ledge in the lion’s den, right in front of a resting lioness. The bird was easily taken down, much to the horror of the children watching. If P22 strikes again, my it be well after hours. And, as far Darwin, thanks for the video. How incredible that, in less than 2 minutes, he was able to dig a burrow about half his size! I’d like to see a human dig a 3 foot hole in even twice that time. with or without a shovel.
    Your little granddaughters have grown into pretty young girls, Debra. You might be able to slow them down if you feed them a little less. 🙂

    1. Your story of the peacock and the lion is incredible, John. I am not sure I’d ever get over that myself! As far as I’ve been able to understand the zoo’s plans for the animals, they’re now bringing some of the vulnerable ones to nighttime enclosures. I think they’re tracking the mountain lion as well. I hope that will take care of the problem. And I have never understood people who think exotic animals pets. Far too often it seems that people underestimate their eventual care, and surely underestimate the cost of properly housing them. I’d better not be too judgmental, though, as I grapple with how to raise Darwin in the future. I do have my concerns. 🙂 I appreciate your comment about the girls, John. I am making certain to spend as much time with them as I can, while a grandmother is still considered good company! Those teen years are getting closer every day. 🙂

      1. Your line about “a grandmother is still considered good company” could have been said by my cousin and his wife. They have spent as much time with their young grandkids as possible. As he has said, one day their “It’s Grandma and Grandpa!” will be replaced by an eye roll. Best get ’em while their young. 🙂

  6. Literally laughing out loud about your comment on P-22 crossing the 405 and 101…that is one serious feat!! Happy to see Darwin is keeping you two busy 😉

  7. Wow that little stinker can do some damage. He is cute though and baby bear and I were both mesmerized by his “skills.” I see what a pleasure your garden is but what challenges you both face with the wildlife…keeps you on your toes Debra!

    1. I enjoy the animals and I don’t really mind the work involved in their care, but sometimes when I’m short on time I become quite aware of that investment! We are doing our best to create a long-term housing plan for Darwin. I’m also quickly running out of options. We may need to give him a portion of the house. LOL!

  8. I just love the film of Darwin digging. 🙂 He is a tortoise of great determination!
    After reading the background to the cougar/koala event, I’m afraid my sympathies are with the cougar. He was just doing what nature has programmed him to do when hungry. After all he ate his victim and didn’t just kill it, as foxes so often do with chickens. as I know to my cost.

  9. So much fun watching the digger! 🙂 I recall the posts you did last year about the drought and fire, it must be a better year for California. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Raising a Sulcata isn’t for everyone! | breathelighter

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