Mountain Lion Walked 1,800 Miles Before Being Hit by Car

Photo: Lil Rose / cc

Last month, a mountain lion was struck and killed by a car in Connecticut -- and new details have emerged suggesting the animal had an incredible, record-breaking journey before it met that sad end. Following the accident, scientists puzzled over how the lion came to be there -- after all, the species hadn't been seen in the state for over a century. Scientists sampled the animal's DNA which hinted at something remarkable: the mountain lion was from South Dakota, and it had apparently just walked a third of the way across the US.Clues as to the mountain lion's origin might never have been known if it weren't for one incredible coincidence. Scientists testing the animal's DNA found it to be a perfect match with those randomly collected years earlier, nearly two-thousand miles to the west -- indicating the animal was from the Black Hill region of South Dakota. The discovery suggests that the animal had walked across at least six states and dozens of freeways before being killed by a car in Greenwich, Connecticut.

If that is true, scientists say it may be the longest overland journey by a mammal ever recorded.

"The journey of this mountain lion is a testament to the wonders of nature and the tenacity and adaptability of this species," Daniel Esty, of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as reported by the BBC.

Despite the serendipity which led to the much more being known about the mysterious mountain lion's roots than anyone initially imagined possible when it turned up on the east coast, other questions remain: What caused it to stray so far from its native region? And how did it overcome the many obstacles in its way without being injured or killed long before? At first, officials suspected the animal was a released pet -- but because it had not been neutered or declawed, that theory has been discredited.

This isn't the first time mountain lions from South Dakota have been spotted roaming into faraway urban areas, only to be killed for it. In 2008, a mountain lion was shot and killed after being discovered in Chicago. The cat were once broadly distributed throughout both North and South America, but the development of cities and town has reduced their available habitat -- forcing them to traverse through populated areas in search of unclaimed territories.

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