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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Wildlife Enthusiast Beth Pratt Promotes Cohabitation with Lions


Management and Anthropology BA, 1991

A mountain lion roams Griffith Park. Trapped in the semi-wilderness surrounding the iconic Hollywood sign, his skulking presence sparked Beth Pratt’s imagination. She says the cougar, P-22, traveled east from the Santa Monica Mountains when he was two-years-old. He crossed interstate 405, one of the busiest highways in the US, and ventured through Bel Air, passing a few miles north of the Sunset Strip before climbing into the Hollywood Hills. 
“The future of conservation is in the urban areas,” Pratt says. “The mountain lion—that’s the poster child for our campaign—P-22, is living in the middle of LA. That’s unprecedented.” 
In order to reach his paved-off island of relative wild, P-22 braved suburban sprawl. He prowled past some of the richest houses in America. Maybe he found his way to the park by following deer paths between 405 and 101.
“He might have stood on the Mulholland Overlook at night, gazed at the city lights of downtown to the south, and the lack of lights on the landscape due east,” Pratt wrote in a preview chapter of her new book, When Mountain Lions are Neighbors.
Maybe he rested for a day or two before braving the sleepless traffic on route 101. After crossing, he probably drank from the Hollywood Reservoir, which he now frequents, then ambled into the park, eight square miles of conflict-free habitat, abundant with deer. 
“P-22 is stuck now. He can’t go any further, and he probably won’t make it back alive, so he’s been hanging out in this park for two and a half years now.” 
After reading about P-22 in the LA Times, she called a group of researchers who were tracking the cat. With their input, she coordinated an effort to build what could be the largest wildlife crossing on the planet.
Pratt envisions a continuous greenway, stretching across the north corner of LA, a safe passage between the Angeles National Forest and the Santa Monica Mountains for restless cougars like P-22 to cross over the roads without even being noticed.
“He’ll probably be dead by the time it’s built, but it will make sure that other cats don’t have to make the same journey he did. They will have access to greener pastures up north, because mountain lions are very territorial.” 
As California Director for the National Wildlife Federation, Pratt identifies conflicts between the wild and civilization. She helps animals adapt to their rapidly changing habitats, and teaches humans how to co-exist in the animal kingdom. 
Wild creatures fascinated Pratt as a child. “We had frogs and toads coming in the yard,” She says. “I would collect them and put them in my pocket, and then set them loose at night after I studied them.”
Pratt grew up in Billerica, and attended UMass Boston on a full academic scholarship. 
“In my first semester I decided I need to pursue my love of science, and the environment as well, so I picked up a double major,” She says. “After graduation, my friend Jack Leech, who was the photographer and provocateur at the Mass Media, he got a teaching job in Stockton California, and he said why don’t you come out and hike for a few months, so I did and then ended up getting a great job as an environmental manager.” 
Matriculating into college straight out of high school, the main reason that Pratt applied to UMass Boston was affordability. 
“My Dad, I remember the relief on his face when he didn’t have to second mortgage the house. But also, when I toured the campuses—I got into BU, BC, and a few others—I just loved the UMass campus. I loved the energy there. It’s a unique place.” 
Even without dormitories, Pratt found her cohort in the student activities office. She managed Richard Rooney’s campaign for student trustee, and also got herself elected to the Student Senate as Vice President. 
“This was at a time when budget cuts were devastating. The library couldn’t order books. They couldn’t have heat in some of the buildings. It was eye-opening for me to finally be a participant in politics. We had 20,000 kids at the statehouse protesting for the right to funding for the public education. We were really happy about that, except the headlines were about how we trampled the flowers, which was unfortunate because it was a peaceful protest. We ended up meeting with our representatives that day.”
For classes, she managed to get into Lee Grove’s famous detective fiction class. 
“He was an amazing creative writing teacher,” she says. “My anthropology professor, Michael Gibbons, wonderful professor, had a Tasmanian devil stuffed animal in his classroom and a real skeleton he would dress up in weird clothes. I took many courses with him. He was just delightful, just really encouraged our love of learning. My study pal in those classes was Diane D’Arrigo.” 
Every professor Pratt had a class with emphasized the importance of critical thinking and asking questions. Outside of class, through student activities, Pratt learned the importance of working within a community, with people who may not agree with you, to achieve a goal. 
“In wildlife conservation, I’m involved in some pretty big projects,” she says. “It takes a lot of community organizing and working with groups. Especially at the student center that experience helped, because it wasn’t without its controversy there too. We had controversies when I was on the Student Senate about funding, so it taught me how to work with groups and how to get everybody on the same page when you’re managing a project.” 
Pratt also worked at the Mass Media as a staff writer for the news editor, Sheri McLeish, and she helped revive Howth Castle one year. 
“I remember signing up at the table with Matthew Dougin, another student senator, and that was a blast. We got the first issue out in a few years, because it just hadn’t had the support.” 
She hopes that UMass Boston continues to offer untraditional opportunities for future students to pursue their interests and passions. 
“The student center, under Donna Neal and others, was such a wonderful place for someone who was on the younger side of the student body to hangout and just get exposure to a lot of ideas and people that you wouldn’t normally get in a traditional college.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010