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article imageA mountain lion’s remarkable journey across America

By Martin Laine     Jul 27, 2011 in Environment
DNA tests on a mountain lion struck and killed on a Connecticut highway last month show it originally came from South Dakota. Somehow, over the past two years, it made its way through Wisconsin and Minnesota all the way to Milford, Ct., about 1,500 miles.
“This mountain lion traveled a distance of more than 1,500 miles from its original home in South Dakota – representing one of the longest movements ever recorded for a land mammal and nearly double the distance ever recorded for a dispersing mountain lion,” said Conn. Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty in a department press release issued yesterday.
A flurry of reported sightings began in the Greenwich, Conn., area in early June. Then, in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 11, police were notified that a mountain lion had been struck and killed on the Wilbur Cross Parkway. Wildlife officials speculated that the animal had been domesticated and either escaped or had been released.
In New England, mountain lions are also known as Catamounts or Eastern Panthers. Earlier this spring, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service declared the species extinct in New England. However, reports of sightings of mountain lions have occurred sporadically throughout the region, along with the occasional discovery of scat and prints.
Wildlife officials have consistently insisted that there is no evidence of a native population of the large cats in the region.
But the 140-pound male killed in Connecticut adds a new dimension to the debate. The animal had not been declawed or neutered, which is generally done to captive animals. Moreover, the DNA samples from this animal matched those collected from samples collected in blood and scat at several sites in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Still, Commissioner Esty called the Connecticut mountain lion an “anomaly” and said that there was no indication that other mountain lions from the western states have made it to New England to establish a new native population.
“This is the first evidence of a mountain lion making its way to Connecticut from western states and there is still no evidence indicating that there is a native population of mountain lions in Conecticut,” Esty said.
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