The mountain lion in Minnesota last winter, months before he made it to Connecticut., July 9, 2011

Despite many sightings over the years, it’s doubtful Connecticut has mountain lions

For 25 years, Connecticut residents have reported seeing mountain lions. Out of hundreds of sightings, only one time could they prove it actually was one.

That happened in the middle of the night on June 11, when a car hit and killed a large, healthy-looking mountain lion that was trying to run across the Wilbur Cross Parkway near Exit 55 in Milford.

The eastern cougar that once roamed the state has been declared extinct by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The closest known groupings of related species of cougars are in Missouri, South Dakota, and southern Florida. So what is it that people in Connecticut are seeing?

“We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar,” said the Service’s Northeast Region Chief of Endangered Species Martin Miller in a press release issued in March that officially announced the eastern cougar to be extinct. “However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.”

Obviously, people are seeing something but it’s hard to determine what that is. Large wild animals don’t typically stand still for a photo op. and no one has located any really good tracks or scat.

Like sightings of Bigfoot, it’s a mystery that has yet to be solved. Reports of sightings are consistent, at least, and slightly more frequent and believable than those of Sasquatch. Just over a week ago, Waterford’s animal control officer, Robert Yuchniuk, received a report of a mountain lion spotted by “a credible person.”

A Connecticut website,, posts more claims of sightings. In recent weeks people reported they saw the big cats passing through Scotland, Salem, Willimantic, Cromwell, Glastonbury, and other towns.

“I won’t tell you they did not see one,” said Rick Jacobson, director of the wildlife division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). “I’ll tell you that the probability is small but that it’s possible that they saw one.”

Jacobson said that when he talks to people about what they saw, asking about coloration, size, and weight, “frequently over the course of the conversations, the callers come to their own conclusions that what they saw was probably something else.”

Jacobson said there is no way to know if all the other claims of sightings are true. Besides the cougar killed in June on the Wilbur Cross Highway, no evidence has emerged to prove what species the other animals sighted were.

DEEP officials believe that the dead mountain lion was the same one spotted earlier that week in Greenwich. Officials said it probably escaped from captivity, or was perhaps released from someone in the exotic pet trade who bought the animal. New York officials told Connecticut that all legally-held mountain lions there were accounted for, according to Jacobson. Personal possession of wild cats in Connecticut is against the law but it’s legal in New York. Of course, the cougar could have been bought illegally.

“Try Googling mountain lions for sale,” Jacobson said. “You get a lot of hits.”


About This Article

This appeared on eight southeastern Connecticut sites of For nearly six months I wrote weekly articles for Patch.


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