Kathleen Hale Hunts the Most Dangerous Game

Illustration by Perri Tomkiewicz for Elle

The animals, it seems, will not be contained. A few weeks ago, Ollie the Bobcat, on the loose from the National Zoo, was found a near the bird house a few enclosures over; a toilet in Texas revealed not a single rogue rattlenake, but dozens; and Sunny, a female red panda, escaped from the the Virginia Zoo and is still on the lam after a reported refusal to mate.

“In the wild, pregnancy makes animals even more vulnerable to predators,” writes Katheen Hale at Elle. Hale’s essay about her own pregnancy intersects with a move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn and a deep desire to go where no pregnant woman has gone before: Into Griffith Park to hunt P-22, the city’s celebrity mountain lion. “For the neurotic, celebrations of life can conjure death,” Hale’s psychiatrist tells her. “Pregnancy is a time of regression. It throws the mind into maturational crisis.”

I’d read laboratory studies on the effect of predator exposure on pregnant mice: expectant mothers that were exposed to rat urine refused to give birth to the litters they were gestating. If they could do that, so could I. I’d hold off giving birth for years if necessary, like an elephant, which cooks its kids for two full years. But my obstetrician said I couldn’t refuse to give birth—apparently that’s physically impossible. I wasn’t a mouse or an elephant, I was a human woman, and I was due on June 2.

The solution was simple: I’d hunt down P-22, and hang his head on the wall of my baby girl’s nursery, so that when she became sentient, she would know that her mother was strong, and that she was safe.

Getting from point A (finding P-22) to point B (decapitation) remained a mystery to me, but in my blurry state of hormonal unbliss, I simply didn’t think about it. Instead, the following day, I laced up my hiking boots, parked my car on the winding road leading to Griffith Park, and set off into the dusty wilderness with only a water bottle, potato chips, and my phone, like a crazier Cheryl Strayed. She’d gone off trying to find herself. I’d find the lion and take it from there.

Like me, he had migrated to Los Angeles. But only one of us could stay.

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