July 26, 2011
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental
Protection (DEEP) said today that results of genetic tests show
that the mountain lion killed in Milford, Conn. in June made its
way to the state from the Black Hills region of South Dakota and
is an animal whose movements were actually tracked and recorded as
it made its way through Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Genetic tests also show that it is likely that the mountain lion
killed when it was hit by a car June 11 on the Wilbur Cross
Parkway in Milford was the same one that had been seen earlier
that month in Greenwich, Conn.
DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said, “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 confirmation of a wild mountain lion in our state was the
first recorded in more than 100 years,” Commissioner Esty said.
“This is the first evidence of a mountain lion making its way to
Connecticut from western states and there is still no evidence
indicating that there is a native population of mountain lions in
Link to South Dakota Population and Animal Tracked through
Wisconsin and Minnesota
The genetic tests reveal information about the mountain lion’s
origin and travels were conducted by the United States Department
of Agriculture’s Forest Service Wildlife Genetics Laboratory in
Missoula, Montana. 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.
The Forest Service lab also compared the Milford mountain lion’s
DNA to DNA samples collected from individual animals occurring
outside of the core South Dakota population. This led to a match
with DNA collected from an animal whose movements were tracked in
Minnesota and Wisconsin from late 2009 through early 2010. DNA
from the Connecticut specimen exactly matched DNA collected from
an individual mountain lion at one site in Minnesota and three
sites in Wisconsin.
The Midwestern DNA samples were obtained by collecting scat
(droppings), blood and hair found while snow tracking the mountain
lion at locations where sightings of the animal were confirmed. In
addition, at least a half dozen confirmed sightings of a mountain
lion in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are believed to be of
the same animal. The distance between the first documentation in
Minnesota and the spot where the animal was killed by a vehicle is
nearly 1,000 miles and is nearly double the longest distance
previously recorded for a dispersing mountain lion.
Dispersal is a normal behavior of young male mountain lions
searching for females but they seldom travel more than 100 miles.
The path of the mountain lion led Wisconsin biologists to dub the
male cat the “St. Croix Mountain lion,” after the first county
where a confirmed sighting of it occurred.
Link Between Milford Mountain Lion and Animal Scene in
There were sightings of an animal that was believed to be a
mountain lion in Greenwich, Conn. in early June. The last verified
sighting was June 5, at the Brunswick School there. A scat sample
at that location was taken by the Greenwich Police Department and
sent out for testing.
Genetic tests performed by the U.S. Forest Service Wildlife
Genetic lab, Missoula, Montana on this scat determined that it was
from a mountain lion and indicate it was from the animal killed in
DEEP is having additional tests conducted by a second lab to see
if a more definitive link can be established.
Results of Genetic Tests Substantiate Necropsy Findings
Results of genetic tests on the Milford mountain lion have
substantiated information and observations obtained through a
detailed necropsy performed by a veterinary pathologist from a
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) forensics lab.
The necropsy, performed at DEEP’s Sessions Woods Wildlife Center,
Burlington, Conn., showed the young, lean, 140-pound male mountain
lion was not neutered or declawed – characteristics that seemed to
indicate it was not a captive animal that had escaped or been
The examination of the animal also showed it had no implanted
micro chips, which are commonly used in domestic animals.
Porcupine quills were also found in the animal’s subcutaneous
tissue indicating it had spent some time in the wild. Examination
of the stomach contents, tissues and parasites is continuing. It
was estimated to be between two and five years old but a more
precise age is being determined by microscopic analysis of an
Labs Involved in Testing with DEEP
Personnel from several agencies have expended a great deal of time
and effort in investigating the mysterious appearance of this
mountain lion in Connecticut. These include the United States Fish
and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service’s Wildlife Genetics
laboratory, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources , and the
New York State Museum in Albany.
Additional Comment from Commissioner Esty
“A wild mountain lion traveling through our state is certainly an
anomaly,” Commissioner Esty said. “It is, however, a strong symbol
of what we all hope for – that wilderness areas and biological
diversity can be preserved and protected. Thankfully, through the
hard work and dedication of conservations, wildlife experts and
everyone who cares about our environment and natural resources our
state and nation have made great progress in achieving this goal.”
Background on Mountain Lion Sighting in Connecticut
At approximately 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2011 DEEP was
notified by State Police - Troop I, of a collision between a motor
vehicle and a mountain lion Northbound on the Wilbur Cross Parkway
in the area of Exit 55 in Milford.
The animal was struck and killed by a 2006 Hyundai Tucson SUV. The
operator of the vehicle was uninjured.
DEEP had been working with the Town of Greenwich Police Department
to investigate prior sightings of a large cat in that town. Based
on photographs taken of the animal and other evidence it appeared
that the animal was a mountain lion. The last “credible sighting”
in Greenwich was June 5.