Genetic Testing Reveals Mountain Lion Killed in Connecticut Originated in South Dakota

Traveled to Connecticut through Wisconsin and
Minnesota

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental
Protection (DEEP) said that results of genetic tests show that the
mountain lion killed in Milford, Connecticut 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
Connecticut.”

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
Greenwich, Conn.

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
Milford.

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 released.

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 extracted
tooth.

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 Siting in
Connecticut

At approximately 1 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.

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