Friends of the Connecticut Mountain Lion Seeks Evidence of Cougars in the State

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Mountain lions are known to be elusive.
Photo:Art G. (Wikimedia Commons)
Interview with Dr. John Pettini
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Interview with Dr. John Pettini

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection refutes the notion that wild populations of mountain lions live in Connecticut. But as WNPR's Ray Hardman reports, a grass roots organization aims to prove DEEP wrong.

There used to be plenty of mountain lions in Connecticut, but their population was decimated in part by farmers and ranchers who killed the animal in large numbers to protect their livestock from the big cats. 
 
By the the early 1900s, the mountain lion was almost non-existent in Connecticut. But sightings of the animal have persisted through the years, fueling speculation that the elusive and solitary animal never really left the state. A mountain lion was struck by a car on the Merritt Parkway in 2011, but the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says that cat originated from North Dakota, and maintains that there are no wild populations of mountain lions in Connecticut.
 
But the group Friends of Connecticut Mountain Lion, or Cougars of the Valley, is trying to prove their existence. Their website collects user submitted sightings, and has offered a reward of $100 for a photograph of the cougar.
 
So far, no photos have been submitted to the site, but Dr. John Pettini, a volunteer field researcher for Cougars of the Valley says the many sightings are proof enough:
 
"A lot of the sightings are very brief, and they can be [misidentified as] bobcats and other animals. But even if you take all that away, it leaves you with a lot of very credible eyewitness reports that, when you meet first-person with them, you are getting a description of, really, what could only be a mountain lion."
 
Cougars of the Valley is now raising cash to purchase motion sensor cameras in the hopes of proving once and for all the existence of the Connecticut mountain lion.