A single male mountain lion walked from South Dakota to Connecticut totaling about 1,500 miles. Lab tests showed the mountain lion’s genes matched those of South Dakota population. They also matched DNA samples collected in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Minnesota samples were taken in 2009 and Wisconsin in 2010, presumably as the big cat wandered east towards Connecticut. Very sadly, it was hit by an SUV at the end of its very long walk one night and was killed. Being hit by vehicles is a common cause of death for mountain lions, simply because there isn’t very much undeveloped land left for them to move freely within.
“It is a testament to the adaptability of the species that it can travel so far from its original home in South Dakota to Connecticut,” said Daniel Esty, a state of Connecticut environmental official. (Source: kare11.com)
It was reported what the cat’s route to Connecticut was after Wisconsin, but it might have gone down into Illinois, skirted Chicago and then into Indiana. From there it would have crossed Ohio, Pennsylvania, and lower New York state, before hitting Connecticut. Who knows exactly what caused it to travel so far, and if it would have known how to return to South Dakota. A mountain lion had not been confirmed in Connecticut for over 100 years. Decades ago they roamed the entire lower 48 states. However, they were wiped out due to aggressive extermination programs.
Most mountain lions don’t venture further than one hundred miles outside the area where they are born. Fifteen Western states have wild mountain lion populations. South Dakota has been staging annual hunts, even though their population is not very large, and even some of the kittens get killed. In thirteen states mountain lions are considered a games species and are hunted.
In Florida they are teetering on the brink of extinction and are protected as endangered species. The law does not prevent them from being struck by vehicles, however, and such collisions are killing them continually. Defenders of Wildlife says there are only about 30,000 remaining in the U.S. Eastern cougars were declared extinct this year.
Image Credit: Brian Lammers