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Milford Mountain Lion Trekked From South Dakota

The cougar's 1,800-mile journey is the longest ever recorded.

In what’s being called the longest journey a mountain lion has ever taken in the United States, a cougar six weeks ago — believed by some to be the same cougar — traveled 1,100 miles from Minnesota to get to New England, Connecticut officials said Tuesday.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, analysts' data show that the feline known in South Dakota known as the “St. Croix Cougar” journeyed from that state’s Black Hills, through Minnesota and Wisconsin (see attached map) and across the Midwest — likely southern Ontario, Canada — eventually to Greenwich, where it met its end after colliding with a SUV on the Wilbur Cross parkway in Milford.

“This is an incredible journey, nearly double that of any mountain lion [ever recorded],” Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty said during a press briefing.

Though the first confirmed sighting occurred in Minnesota, officials believe the mountain lion likely was born in South Dakota, meaning a total distance traveled of closer to 1,800 miles is possible.

Scat samples, including those found in Greenwich, as well as sightings across the nation dating back as far as December 2009, snow tracks, photos from trail cameras, tissue collected for genetic testing and the young male’s unmanicured condition, led analysts — including in a lab in Rocky Hill — to the conclusion that the mountain lion had not been held in captivity, according to Paul Rego, a supervising wildlife biologist with the DEEP.

Esty touted the cougar's ability to traverse so far in the wild as a testament to efforts from conservationists and environmental protection groups.

“Although this is the story of the first recorded example of a mountain lion sighting in Connecticut in more than 100 years, there is no evidence of a mountain lion [in Connecticut] beyond this single individual,” Esty said.

The findings mark the latest chapter in a story that’s captured the attention and imagination of residents throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut — the gregarious “” on Facebook last week notched her 3,000th friend — as a species in the Nutmeg State appeared to have re-emerged.

Within days of the mountain lion’s death on a highway in Milford (see photo), state DEEP officials launched an investigation into whether that cougar had been .

In Greenwich and throughout the state, the dual sightings sparked debate over whether mountain lions were present in greater numbers than state officials had acknowledged. In Fairfield, police were given the green light to that couldn’t be contained.

As investigators searched for answers, including in , residents in Greenwich and other Connecticut towns, , began reporting , was found to be inaccurate.

[Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect distances traveled from confirmed sightings versus scientifically believed points of origin.]

milton milford August 09, 2011 at 03:18 AM
GB: I'll be go to hell - you do have a sense of humor, and you're a wildlife wizard to boot. I'll make a note - using special logic, Gene Bartholomew estimated the population size of wild mountain lions in Connecticut at 100 cats, plus or minus 50. Adjectives are sometimes important...I think you neglected to state your estimate involved 100 (plus or minus) "imaginary" puma. Though in this particular case, it's obvious. Think I've helped bounce this cougar comment tally high enough... Any chance you can bring back the passenger pigeon...
April Rogers August 09, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Just my two cents.. i was talking to a neighbor up in New Hampshire (he is originally from MA) and I was telling him about the Cougar... he said.(dont quote me) well, I know MA and (i think) Maine got together and released a few pair of them into CT a few years back. - end unquote- Now how and why would this stranger to the situation say that if he had not heard or read or perhaps was even part of it?? I think I read somewhere else on here or somewhere that they said MA released some as well. I totally believe that there are cougars in CT and I cant wait to see one!!!!
Gene Bartholomew August 09, 2011 at 12:18 PM
In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally declared the animal extinct in the Northeast. Why?----Just as reported sightings are multiplying,..this seems odd. Then---A mountain lion was killed on the Merritt Parkway Saturday morning after being struck by an SUV. Then--DEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette, is very likely "a mountain lion that has been held in captivity and either escaped or was released" Then---In Fairfield they report: "It has not been seen on the Brunswick campus since Sunday. Then DEEP says: “We do continue to state that there is no native population of mountain lions in Connecticut,” --which is a political lie, key words no native population, because there isn't, they were taken out in the 1800's, but have returned, by making this statement Frechete protects herself.-get it? Then:Anyone who sees anything that looks like a mountain lion should call the DEP hotline at 860-424-3333, Frechette said. Milt, why would DEEP want us to call if we see one when there aren't any? gothca, got DEEP, they can't follow their own story line or script Cat hit on parkway in Milford on Saturday, cat not seen in Fairfield since Sunday,explain that. First its definately a pet even though DEEP biologist says no, then when it is proven NOT to be a pet a brilliant story is concocted to show how this 1 cat made a glorious trip across the nation and then was hit by a car before it was seen again in Fairfield "by credible witnesses".
Gene Bartholomew August 09, 2011 at 12:20 PM
April, there are many stories like this, also with the coyotes or coydogs, I remember in the 80's some of the first farmers to kill them (when the DEP was still denying their existence) claimed they were tattooed, and DEP officials took them. There has long been rumors of an "unofficial animal management system" here in CT.
April Rogers August 09, 2011 at 12:42 PM
I would guess we dont have a huge population, but I think there are some.... also, as i said, i just think its so odd that an outsider who knows nothing of this online paper or this article or that one was even killed in CT came out with that statement.... wierd! Gene, keep up your comments, I find them interesting and I agree with 99.9 percent of what you have to say!!!! :)
April Rogers August 14, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Amazing! If it was too old from just a few days ago, how the heck were they able to test the stuff they found in the trails that im sure was a whole lot older. These people are the best scam artist around. No wait, they only think they are!! Rock on Cougars!!!!
milton milford August 15, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Gene Bartholomew: Does Bill Betty coach you? I listened to Bo Ottmann on the Colin McEnroe show. As you are aware, his group is mapping ALLEGED mountain lion ‘sightings’ in Connecticut. Bill Betty called into the show, offering his ‘wisdom.’ http://www.yourpublicmedia.org/content/wnpr/colin-mcenroe-show-are-wild-mountain-lions-back-connecticut. Ottmann solicits sightings and, of course, people then ‘report’ them. It's the same game played elsewhere throughout the East - mountain lion fever. A tiresome, spurious re-run that's been playing since even before the Bigfoot craze back in the 1950s and 1960s. I would not believe an alleged cougar sighting in Connecticut even if had been reported by DEP's own people; that includes Esty, Frechette or any of their biologists. Your population estimate of 100 cougars is reminiscent of the cougar hype in Michigan. Dennis Fijalkowski of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy hyped the alleged existence of a remnant cougar population there for more than ten years. It was then, and still is, thoroughly laughable. See content at the link provided. Fijalkowski estimates about 100 adult cougars live in Michigan, equally distributed between the two peninsulas. “It’s a remnant population that survived the persecution (of hunters) of the early 1900s,” he said. http://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/index.ssf/2010/10/cougars_in_bay_county_wildlife.html DEP verified the presence of one cougar. Your claims prove nothing!
milton milford August 15, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Gene Bartholomew: If you have never heard of Bo Ottmann or Bill Betty, then you did not listen very well to the McEnroe radio show, which you criticized. Bo Ottmann was a guest on that show, and Bill Betty called in toward the end. Ottmann's picture is the second image at the link I provided. Yesterday, you also posted a link from Ottmann’s website: 9:37am on Sunday, August 14, 2011 Yes, I believe a vehicle struck the Milford cat and that he probably walked from South Dakota through Minnesota and Wisconsin. You don't think he was riding in the vehicle and jumped out of it, do you?? I do not know whether he was the first western disperser to arrive in Connecticut, but there is plenty of reason to believe that he might have been. Yes, I realize your Connecticut cougar population ‘model’ was constructed upon the friction coefficient of a deer's hoof and a sample size of one puma...but those are not the only two reasons that I'm still laughing at it. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/01/10/florida-panther-deaths-remained-high-in-2010/ Concerning the infamous Michigan house cat video and that so called 'forensic' analysis...well, I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night! Show that video to anyone who knows anything, and they will inform you those animals are house cats. As a consequence, I’ve had many laughs courtesy of that video and Dennis Fijalkowski of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy. Actually, it's hilarious and many, many people feel the same.
Ron Lamontagne August 15, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Is this silly thread still going on? Please give it up already!
Darrell Lucas August 16, 2011 at 03:05 AM
You should exchange phone numbers and you two love birds could chit chat about lions all night.. HA But seriously I didn't know there was so much passion for this subject. Cheers to you both.
milton milford August 16, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Gene Bartholomew: Where puma are concerned, I have been watching the tactics of Dennis Fijalkowski and Pat Rusz of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy for more than a decade now. The Stokes’ video shows house cats. Did you know the woodlot is actually in Ohio? The assertion those two cats are mountain lions is ludicrous. You are absolutely barkin up the wrong tree if you think otherwise. You appear new to the mountain lion game. Therefore, allow me to impart a bit of insight...under comparison, Fijalkowki and Rusz might cause John A. Lutz to appear credible. Gene, I have noted what I believe is projection (a mechanism by which a person's own traits are attributed to someone else) in certain of your earlier comments respecting this cougar conversation. For example: 4:54pm on July 27, 2011 “…these people are not concerned with science, logic or fact, they are concerned with an agenda…like so many people they have decided what the truth is first, and then rearrange the facts to fit their fancy.” 8:37am on July 28, 2011 “…they have ZERO credibility…” 3:34pm on August 6, 2011 “Humans are so screwed up, so concerned with agendas rather than truth.” 1:06pm on Monday, August 15, 2011 “Their logic (Michigans and other govts) is so screwed up.” If I said those statements appear to represent projection on your part, I suppose you would be inclined to say that is just my imagination?
Darrell Lucas August 16, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Yay case closed! Who would have a cougar as a pet anyhow? That's crazy. If you did it would get out...I mean the neighbors or friends would leak that info. I am sure you would have to feed it a lot! You would have to hunt deer just to feed your cat.
milton milford August 17, 2011 at 02:51 AM
When the people of Connecticut verify female mountain lions and recruitment of cubs, and genetic analyses of those individuals shows their relatedness, then we will know there is a resident population. We are shy that evidence. People who have seen a cougar or its sign can help. Those who believe they have seen a mountain lion, but have not, do not help. This is how Nebraska verified their tiny population: http://canton-ct.patch.com/articles/milford-mountain-lion-trekked-from-south-dakota#comment_1189536 In the Midwest, less than a decade ago, as young male dispersing mountain lions turned up in greater frequency, people's first notions often recognized the possibility that the cat detected might be a pet, which made sense because that had happened previously, and it still occurs. However, now, it is no longer a reflex reaction to consider the possibility of a feral pet because wild male dispersers are just as likely, if not more so. I misspoke earlier today. The woodlot in the Stokes' video abuts Ohio, but it is not in Ohio. However, when Ms. Stokes made the video of the house cats, she was standing in Sylvania Ohio, adjacent the Michigan border. Sylvania is suburb in the west-northwest region of the Toledo metropolitan area. Also today, I again reviewed the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy’s 'forensic' video. It is a shame that Dennis Fijalkowski, Bob Bishop, and David G. Townshend did not receive Emmy Awards for the most hilarious video produced that year!
Darrell Lucas August 17, 2011 at 04:48 AM
MIlton... case close. You two have argued about this so much I forget what point you are trying to make. SO let me get it strait. Milton you believe cougars are breading here in CT or around CT? And Gene you dont believe it? Keep it simple.
Karen Moulton August 17, 2011 at 11:50 AM
Read the book "The Beast in the Garden" about how one area in Colorado denied that they would hunt humans and at first that they existed...Lions proved them wrong
Darrell Lucas August 17, 2011 at 01:12 PM
Well Milton I guess you win if no more evidence shows up in a few years... But if there is then you can fire up this thread again.
milton milford August 18, 2011 at 03:08 AM
Darrell Lucas: Gene is correct; I believe there are no cougars in Connecticut, with the possible exception of an occasional wild disperser like the Milford cat. A puma previously owned by a human could perhaps also occur. If a resident population existed, I believe that population would soon show tangible, physical evidence. That is, specimens, DNA from scat or hair, snow trails, and legitimate photographs would all soon provide evidence building a case for presence. I believe no one could deny the existence of a population for long because there are many people like Gene and myself who would bust them. Alleged 'sightings' are nearly impossible to use as a gauge for presence or numbers for three reasons. 1) Sightings that are valid, even when widely scattered, might all be of the same mountain lion; e.g., the Champlin-Milford cougar was likely observed at various locations between Wisconsin and Greenwich / Milford. 2) It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether a sighting is valid; unfortunately, an overwhelming number of alleged sightings are not accurate. 3) Even when a sighting is valid, generally little or no information can be obtained concerning the identity or gender of the cat. I believe Paul Rego leveled with us from the get go. His description of the cat caused me to think that it might be a disperser. Given the circumstances, his opinions were reasonable: http://naugatuck.patch.com/articles/dep-slain-mountain-lion-was-held-in-captivity
Darrell Lucas August 18, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Milton your just trying to make a case again... we got it. I think the both of you are just playing the "last word" game. I can prove it.. Gene now you say something. Then Milton you.. YAY!
John Brush August 18, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Even with Darrell moderating he couldn't control those two!
milton milford August 18, 2011 at 08:44 PM
GB: Paul Hiller might be "certain" of a sighting ("This could have been the twin of that one," Hiller said), BUT I am not. As previously stated, without tangible, physical EVIDENCE, I would not accept any sighting as solid fact - nor should anyone - regardless of the level of experience of the observer. Even if the source of the sighting was one of DEP's own, I could not accept it as fact. (Hiller works for government...why would you, GB, trust that one!) If you play this game long enough, eventually you will realize that sightings, in and of themselves, are of value only when actual evidence can be obtained at the location of an ALLEGED sighting...i.e., sightings occasionally provide places to look for evidence, which may be nearly impossible to obtain, except when there is snow. See points 6 and 7, here: http://danbury.patch.com/articles/why-is-it-so-hard-to-admit-that-mountain-lions-live-in-connecticut#comment_961640 See too: http://monroe.patch.com/articles/more-mountain-lion-sightings-reported#comment_1224710 Or this: Show Me the Cougar Defenders Magazine Spring 2007 A team of Missouri biologists helps sort out cat fact from cat fancy Heidi Ridgley http://www.defenders.org/newsroom/defenders_magazine/spring_2007/show_me_the_cougar.php Come to think of it, GB...with a relaxed, open-mind, you might consider re-reading all my comments someday (ignore the digs ;), I really think the time will come when you agree with most or all of what I’ve said.
milton milford August 18, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Darrell: I heard your point the first time you made it. "YAY!" And I will attempt compliance with your order. (It is sometimes difficult to bow out of a ‘conversation’ after a question has been presented.) Gene, on this board, you will have to push the comment count over a 100 on your own. I am switching to a channel where hopefully there is less traffic: IF I respond to the inevitable, it will be in the comment section of your article concerning mountain lions (i.e., alleged mountain lions) . Here: http://easthaddam.patch.com/blog_posts/mountain-lions-for-real
Darrell Lucas August 20, 2011 at 08:04 AM
Gene... you miss Milton dont you. I am sorry I was poking fun at you guys and your back and forth banter. Your discussion adds to the value of Patch and thats whats important. Also Ann's comment got deleted? Weird?
Darrell Lucas August 20, 2011 at 02:30 PM
I think that there are definitely not 50 to 100 cougars in CT. I am from western Montana and me and my father witnessed a cougar run across the road in daylight once. Now compare Montana to Connecticut in regards to square miles and population of people. There seriously would be more evidence to support your claim of 50-100. Dead deers, motion sensor photos, claw marks on trees. Could there be a small group of 5 or 6? Maybe...
milton milford August 20, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Darrell: It is refreshing to see another viewpoint here. A discussion involving an opinion of the possibility of presence of a few or several cats in Connecticut, or their occasional occurrence in Connecticut - versus an opinion of none - might be interesting. However, when Spock indicates that 'logic' 'informs' us there is a population of at least 50 - 100 mountain lions in Connecticut…well, that causes me to think that Spock had an accident in the transporter room and bumped his head while the Enterprise was attempting to beam him back to reality. I think this boils down to sightings-based 'logic' versus a science-based awareness. When cats first starting showing up in the Midwest, not more than a decade ago, the PEOPLE there detected several young male dispersing mountain lions - and they did so without much apparent difficulty. In fact, nearly all cougars that have been detected are quite dead now...people shot them, like in Iowa, and vehicles killed a couple. That is, most of these dispersers did not even make it through the front lines. Gene, if what you have stated is not fiction...why is that cougars are stacking up Connecticut...does Connecticut have a cougar magnet? Males wander. They are looking for unoccupied territories with females. Where are those females? (Yes, I know, they are still in the Florida and still in the West, eh.)
Sunshine August 20, 2011 at 07:05 PM
Hey Gene, cool your jets. Milt is arguing facts, I see no harassment here. He just has a different opinion than you do. As far as arrogant attitude issues, Gene, have you a mirror?
Darrell Lucas August 21, 2011 at 05:22 AM
Gene, Milton took a break after my coy comments about you two... After Miltons last comment you posted four times. Practically begging for him to keep fighting with you. Just scroll up and see. And Gene I quote you.. "I believe there are 50-100" Since your so great a posting articles I found this one. http://www.scrippsnews.com/content/florida-panther-count-steady-despite-roadkill-record IF you read it you will see that Florida has a steady population of around 100 lions and in 2008.... 17 where hit by cars. But thats not even the total death count! Another 7 deaths were unknown causes and fights with other cougars. So the mortality rate for a lion in Florida is around 20 to 25%. ONE died here in CT. So there could be 4 or 5 more. Or none. Now lets look at population density. Florida 350.6 inhabitants per square mile Connecticut 738.1 inhabitants per square mile Montana 6.8 inhabitants per square mile As you can see CT has a boat load more people and I'm sure it has just as many roads as Florida. If there was a steady population of 10 lions in ct statistics say one should be hit every year.
Darrell Lucas August 21, 2011 at 05:23 AM
Why did I include Montana? Cause when I was 11 years old I saw one with my own eyes run across a road. And it could have been hit easy. Are there more cougars in Montana? Heck yeah.. but there is only 6 people on average per square mile. That cougar could be in so many better places then running across a road. It doesn't like to be seen right? Here some facts... Gene now that I have read through your posts the fact is YOU DON'T HAVE ANY! You're trying to prove that there is a lion population here in CT without any facts. Show me paw tracks, tree scratch marks, scat, prey kills, trail camera photos... You dont have any.. not a single one. So Gene the weight is on you to provide REAL proof that there is a small population here in CT. I know 50-100 is so ridiculous you wish you didn't say it. Go ahead and erase your own comment if you like. You responded to me 7:51am on Wednesday, August 17. Show us evidence! If you dont have any then go get it! I am open to see it. If you have it then you more then welcome to laugh at me in the face and say "I told you so". I am humble enough to tell you that you're correct. >^!!^<
Darrell Lucas August 21, 2011 at 06:06 AM
Oh wait I found another! Gene I quote you! "But using this as a loose guide I'd base Ct's Mountain Lion population at between 50-150." WOW Most peoples sighting are most definitely a bobcat. Or my neighbors golden retriever "Max" he tends to meow. Another Gene quote "I still do not see the dna results of this cat" Gene... DO you know how to read DNA results?
milton milford August 22, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Given that a commenter removed at least 40 comments from this forum, some of the context of the discussion has also vanished. Hmm. The point I make here is in response to a comment previously posted on this board (Friday, August 19, 2011@10:34am) but which has now vanished. This is stated within DEEP's 7/26/11 press release, http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?A=4121&Q=483776 Quote. "DNA from the Connecticut specimen exactly matched DNA collected from an individual mountain lion at one site in Minnesota and three sites in Wisconsin." End Quote. "Exactly matched" is a not an ambiguous selection of words; it means the Milford cougar is the SAME animal that had already been identified four times during winter 2009-10 in Minnesota and Wisconsin. IN ADDITION, that press release also states the Milford cougar's DNA matched the genetic structure of mountain lions in the Black Hills region: "DNA tests show that tissue from the Milford mountain lion matches the genetic structure of the mountain lion population in the Black Hills region of South Dakota." In reference to those two points, I don't see how that press release could have been any more clear. Cheers.
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