Photo credit: KRO-Media/Creative Commons
The eastern cougar has been extinct for more than 100 years, according to biologists, but this hasn't kept people living around Greenwich, Connecticut, from calling local conservation officers with reports of mountain lion sightings. For months, the Department of Environmental Protection fielded calls but paid little attention, stating that the likelihood an actual mountain lion was roaming the suburban area was slim.
Then, on June 11, they received a call they could not ignore: A motorist reported hitting a large cat that was now dead on the side of the road.When officers arrived on the scene, they found a 140-pound male mountain lion—also known as a cougar—confirming the existence of a big cat in the area. For residents who had reported sightings it was a moment of vindication.
Jeremy Joyell, of Bristol, Connecticut, had reported a mountain lion sighting in 2004. "When I saw [a mountain lion had been discovered] today I felt better," he commented, "because those of us that have seen them know damn well what we saw."
Just because a mountain lion turned up within the historical range of the eastern cougar, however, does not mean that the species has survived extinction. To make its final decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated 108 confirmed cougar sightings in the region from 1900 to 2010. After this review, they concluded that none of the cougars spotted in these cases were native to the Northeast. Rather, they had originated in South America or the West Coast.
This latest mountain lion, Department of Environmental Protection officers said, was no different. They believe that the cat had either been released or escaped from captivity.
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