Tests Confirm Connecticut Mountain Lion Traveled from South Dakota

That’s a long trip, and evidence that American big cat populations are getting large enough to force young cats into multi-state migrations to find a territory. From The Middletown Press:

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said today that results of genetic tests show that the mountain lion killed in Milford 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.

[…]

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.

This would be the first wild mountain lion confirmed in Connecticut in over 100 years.

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