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DNA Tracking Confirms Cougar Travelled 1,500 Miles from South Dakota to Conn.

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July 27, 2011

DNA Tracking Confirms Cougar Travelled 1,500 Miles from South Dakota to Conn.

By David Maccar

A mountain lion made an incredible 1,500 mile trek from South Dakota to Connecticut, only to be killed on a highway by an SUV.

From this story on ABCnews.com:
The mountain lion that met an untimely death on a Connecticut highway last month had walked 1,500 miles from South Dakota, environmental officials say -- an incredible journey tracked through DNA samples collected in the Midwest over the last two years.

The 140-pound male cougar, whose age is estimated at between 2 and 5 years, almost certainly left its native habitat to look for mates but went in the wrong direction, according to Adrian Wydeven, mammal ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "He was looking for love in all the wrong places," he said.

The mountain lion was struck by an SUV on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford, Conn., on June 11. The driver was unhurt, but the cougar died at the scene.

Experts initially believed it had been released or escaped from captivity, given that no mountain lion had been sighted in the state in more than 100 years.

But Daniel Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in a statement Tuesday that genetic tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Wildlife Genetics Laboratory showed that the animal had travelled from the Black Hills of South Dakota . DNA samples of scat (droppings), blood and hair -- taken at one site in Minnesota and three sites in Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010 of a mountain lion whose movements were tracked in those states -- confirmed the findings.

"The DNA and tissue was an exact match," said Dennis Shain, spokesman for the Connecticut DEEP. He said the tests also confirm the animal's origin. "It was a match for the species of mountain lion that lives in the Black Hills region. They have a unique genetic code and they're not known to breed elsewhere."

The cougar was not neutered or declawed — more evidence that it was a wild creature — and had no implanted microchips. Porcupine quills were found under its skin -- another sign of its having lived in the wild.

Shain said the lion was probably the same creature that was seen at the Brunswick School in the wealthy Connecticut suburb of Greenwich earlier in June. Tests have established a link, but it is not definitive.

Biologists believe the creature wandered through Ontario and New York State before arriving in Connecticut. Normally, mountain lions only travel 100 miles or so looking for mates, and it's not clear why this cougar took such an epic journey.

Comments (16)

Top Rated
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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Interesting and sad at the same time. The lion was looking for love but found an SUV instead.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Good kitty.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from GERG wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Wow thats incredible. Makes you think about other cat sightings in places they aint supposed to be. I was always very skeptical of "sightings". Maybe I will be a little more open to them?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

This one walked to Connecticut, but there are non in OH. Right.

Maybe this is the one responsible for the sightings here over the last few years.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from riverdemon10 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I respect the DEP and the scientists in Connecticut but i live here and know of at least 10 different sightings by creditable people. These were people who are big time hunters and can clearly see the difference between a bob cat and mountain lion. The two really look nothing alike if you think about it. This cat could have traveled that far but i still think there is a population of them in Connecticut.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hobob wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Amazing. A friend saw one in the early 90's spotting in northern PA and I saw pictures of the tracks in the snow but this is an incredible story. Just incredible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

While fishing a rural section of Florida this spring I saw a large black house cat dart across the road in front of the truck. It was a house cat. My buddy was immediately on the phone calling his wife telling her he had just seen a black florida panther. I could not convince him it was only a common house cat. I figure sightings like this account for 99% of all large cat sightings. Nice to see the 1% confirmed.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DanP wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

There had been a number of relatively recent sightings in southeast NY State earlier in the year and late last year, not far from the CT sighting. Of course, they were not given any credence.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Pretty cool,,,

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

140lbs.
Good lord that's a cat.
As far as he traveled and being confirmed a wild cat by dna I wonder his weight before he left S. Dakota?
What a man won't do for a woman.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JDubYa wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Man thats crazy! Wonder how life would be if the mtn lions (cougars) were repopulated back on the east coast. I suppose we'd have a hard time whitetail hunting!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Good point, Jim. If he was 140 after that marathon, he must have been a beast back home. 140 is already a pretty good size. On the other hand, he probably passed through some areas/wound up in an area that is pretty damn thick with deer that have no idea how to deal with the likes of him anymore. That's part of why things have gone so badly for the elk in new wolf country. They aren't ready for that sort of predator anymore.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnfishnut wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I wonder what it thought of Chicago rush hour. Or maybe it took the Badger.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1grand6 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

What a wonderful creature, to bad for the untimely death. 1500 miles is truely amazing. MI has them around but I have yet to see them. I did get to see one of the very early sightings of wolves in the lower peninsula right by my house, when officials kept insisting their weren't any here yet.How very lucky.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Proof finally, I am one of those guys who would correct people who said they saw mountain lions, gonna have to bite my tongue now that there is solid proof that it is possible. Curious, what are the game laws regarding this animal in states that they are thought to be absent from?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from larrichan wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

For those who think wolves and mountain lions affect the deer and elk populations that much, think again. I've lived out west for over 40 years and bet that 2-3 elk and deer are shot illegally for every one shot legally with permits. I guarantee that wolves and lions don't take that many. Take a look at the North Kaibab study when they removed all lions and coyotes. Overpopulation, drought, huge die-off, no deer and elk left. Prey populations regulate predator populations more than the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I think proper management and harvesting of predators is just as critical as for other species. But there are some people that are still frightened by the Big Bad Wolf nursery stories, or believe that no predators equals more game, and would like to see every predator wiped out. They're wrong.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

While fishing a rural section of Florida this spring I saw a large black house cat dart across the road in front of the truck. It was a house cat. My buddy was immediately on the phone calling his wife telling her he had just seen a black florida panther. I could not convince him it was only a common house cat. I figure sightings like this account for 99% of all large cat sightings. Nice to see the 1% confirmed.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

140lbs.
Good lord that's a cat.
As far as he traveled and being confirmed a wild cat by dna I wonder his weight before he left S. Dakota?
What a man won't do for a woman.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Interesting and sad at the same time. The lion was looking for love but found an SUV instead.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Good kitty.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from GERG wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Wow thats incredible. Makes you think about other cat sightings in places they aint supposed to be. I was always very skeptical of "sightings". Maybe I will be a little more open to them?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

This one walked to Connecticut, but there are non in OH. Right.

Maybe this is the one responsible for the sightings here over the last few years.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from riverdemon10 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I respect the DEP and the scientists in Connecticut but i live here and know of at least 10 different sightings by creditable people. These were people who are big time hunters and can clearly see the difference between a bob cat and mountain lion. The two really look nothing alike if you think about it. This cat could have traveled that far but i still think there is a population of them in Connecticut.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hobob wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Amazing. A friend saw one in the early 90's spotting in northern PA and I saw pictures of the tracks in the snow but this is an incredible story. Just incredible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DanP wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

There had been a number of relatively recent sightings in southeast NY State earlier in the year and late last year, not far from the CT sighting. Of course, they were not given any credence.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Pretty cool,,,

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JDubYa wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Man thats crazy! Wonder how life would be if the mtn lions (cougars) were repopulated back on the east coast. I suppose we'd have a hard time whitetail hunting!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Good point, Jim. If he was 140 after that marathon, he must have been a beast back home. 140 is already a pretty good size. On the other hand, he probably passed through some areas/wound up in an area that is pretty damn thick with deer that have no idea how to deal with the likes of him anymore. That's part of why things have gone so badly for the elk in new wolf country. They aren't ready for that sort of predator anymore.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnfishnut wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I wonder what it thought of Chicago rush hour. Or maybe it took the Badger.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1grand6 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

What a wonderful creature, to bad for the untimely death. 1500 miles is truely amazing. MI has them around but I have yet to see them. I did get to see one of the very early sightings of wolves in the lower peninsula right by my house, when officials kept insisting their weren't any here yet.How very lucky.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Proof finally, I am one of those guys who would correct people who said they saw mountain lions, gonna have to bite my tongue now that there is solid proof that it is possible. Curious, what are the game laws regarding this animal in states that they are thought to be absent from?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from larrichan wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

For those who think wolves and mountain lions affect the deer and elk populations that much, think again. I've lived out west for over 40 years and bet that 2-3 elk and deer are shot illegally for every one shot legally with permits. I guarantee that wolves and lions don't take that many. Take a look at the North Kaibab study when they removed all lions and coyotes. Overpopulation, drought, huge die-off, no deer and elk left. Prey populations regulate predator populations more than the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I think proper management and harvesting of predators is just as critical as for other species. But there are some people that are still frightened by the Big Bad Wolf nursery stories, or believe that no predators equals more game, and would like to see every predator wiped out. They're wrong.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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