The beautiful mountain lion killed by an SUV driver in Connecticut last month had walked to New England all the way from South Dakota, according to genetic testing conducted by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). This was the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Connecticut in over a century, and DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty says, "The journey of this mountain lion is a testament to the wonders of nature and the tenacity and adaptability of this species. This mountain lion traveled a distance of more than 1,500 miles from its original home in South Dakota - representing one of the longest movements ever recorded for a land mammal and nearly double the distance ever recorded for a dispersing mountain lion."
The lean, 140-pound male mountain lion, whose age was estimated to be between 2 and 5 years old, was killed by an SUV driver in the New Haven suburb of Milford on June 11th. Researchers conducting a necropsy found that it had no implanted micro chips, which are commonly used in domestic animals, and porcupine quills were also found in its subcutaneous tissue, indicating it had spent some time in the wild. DEEP worked with the U.S. Forest Service to examine DNA in scat, blood and hair found while snow tracking the mountain lion at locations where sightings of the animal were confirmed.
Young male mountain lions rarely travel more than 100 miles in their search for females, and biologists don't know what drove this mountain lion so far from his home in the Black Hills, where there's a wild breeding population of some 250 mountain lions. After matching this mountain lion's DNA to DNA found in mountain lions near the Black Hills, researchers were able to genetically match the animal to samples collected from a mountain lion who traveled through Minnesota and Wisconsin from late 2009 through early 2010.
Confirmation of the animal's origins are good news for Connecticut officials, who have been trying to calm a panicky local residents worried that there are more mountain lions roaming around out there waiting to eat their pets. "A wild mountain lion traveling through our state is certainly an anomaly,” Commissioner Esty said in a statement. “It is, however, a strong symbol of what we all hope for—that wilderness areas and biological diversity can be preserved and protected." As long as these areas stay the hell away from our SUVs.