|By Alex Dobuzinskis1/3 |By Alex Dobuzinskis
|By Alex Dobuzinskis2/3 |By Alex Dobuzinskis
|By Alex Dobuzinskis3/3 |By Alex Dobuzinskis
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A mountain lion with his own Facebook fan page that triggered a media storm by hiding in the crawl space under a Los Angeles house has left its urban refuge, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.
The animal known as P-22, who usually lives in Griffith Park and was featured in a 2013 National Geographic photo with the Hollywood sign in the background, was discovered underneath the house on Monday in the city's affluent hillside Los Feliz neighborhood.
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At around midnight, authorities asked onlookers to leave the area to allow the animal space in the hope it would leave. An initial check of the property on Tuesday morning showed no sign of the predator, said California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janice Mackey.
After a more thorough search, the department gave the official all-clear on Twitter. "The cougar has left the building," it said in a tweet.
The department later said the mountain lion, which has a tracking collar that allows it to be located, returned to its habitat in Griffith Park. The urban park covers more than 4,000 acres (1,619 hectares) and is surrounded by residential areas and bordered on two sides by freeways.
The Los Angeles Times reported that workers installing a security system in the home had first come face to face with P-22 on Monday afternoon.
As television news helicopters then flew overhead, officials had tried to prod the cat with a long pole and get its attention with tennis balls, before resorting to shooting at it with bean bags, the newspaper said.
The cat became something of a celebrity in the area after it was discovered living in Griffith Park about three years ago.
Wildlife authorities named him P-22 and more than 1,400 people have since signed up to "like" the "Friends of P22 Mountain Lion" Facebook page.
"There's always an inherent risk when we dart an animal and we want this cat to return to its habitat on its own if possible," Mackey said by phone before the feline's departure from his crawl space hideaway was confirmed.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Sandra Maler)