Celebrity mountain lion with own Facebook page leaves refuge under Los Angeles house

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 as it descended a dirt trail, had resisted efforts to evict him.

The big cat was discovered in the crawl space on Monday in the city's affluent hillside Los Feliz neighbourhood.

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 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.

It was not immediately clear where the lion went on Tuesday. Its Griffith Park habitat covers more than 1,619 hectares and is surrounded by residential areas.

"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.