HARTFORD, Connecticut ~ (Middletown Press/AP) ~ A mountain lion killed on a Connecticut highway had apparently walked halfway across the country from its home in South Dakota.
According to a news conference held by Daniel Esty, Commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the cougar originated in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and was tracked by DNA, gathered from hair and scat samples, as it made its way through Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010. The lean, 140-pound male mountain lion was killed on June 11th when it was struck by an SUV at night on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in New Haven. Tests also determined it was the same cat spotted 30 miles away in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Testing was conducted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Wildlife Genetics Laboratory in Missoula, Montana; authorities initially thought the cat was a captive animal that had escaped, but necropsy reports did not indicate neutering or declawing and the body contained no microchips, which are commonly used in domestic animals. The death of the animal touched off a flurry of big cat sightings in the nearby area but experts dismissed most of them as unreliable. Government experts say there are no native cougars believed to live in Connecticut, and it’s the first confirmed mountain lion in the state in over 100 years. The journey is also one of the longest ever recorded to be made by a land mammal. The exact route taken by the animal could not be determined, and biologists think it could have travelled south through urban area or north through Canada.
Although an anomaly, Commissioner Esty said the presence of the wild cat is a testament to the ability of Connecticut’s conserved land to sustain wildlife. “It is a testament to the adaptability of the species that it can travel so far from its original home in South Dakota to Connecticut,” Esty said, adding that the discovery is, “a strong symbol of what we had all hoped for who work in the conservation area, that wilderness areas and biological diversity can be preserved and protected.”
Photo credit: Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection/Associated PressTags: connecticut, dakota, lion, mountain, south, Weird News