24Oct/091

Mountain lions in Connecticut? – REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Rego recently investigated reported sightings near the eastern Connecticut town of Sprague. It turned out to be a bobcat, which has a short, "bobbed" tail. A report of a mountain lion at the White Memorial Conservation area in Litchfield last month was also attributed to a bobcat.

Rego said he doesn't understand why mountain lions have prompted such intense discussion and anger among those who claim to see them. Some have alleged a state cover-up. Others, including DaVino-Garcia, have suggested the state released mountain lions as a means of controlling the burgeoning deer population.

Rego said he doesn't understand why mountain lions have prompted such intense discussion and anger among those who claim to see them. Some have alleged a state cover-up. Others, including DaVino-Garcia, have suggested the state released mountain lions as a means of controlling the burgeoning deer population.

"There are no covert actions being conducted by the state," Rego said. "People earnestly believe what they claim they saw. I have found the tracks made by what some of them are sure they saw and it wasn't left there by a mountain lion."

As difficult as it might seem to mistake an 8-foot long, tawny-coated cat with a long tail for a coyote or slightly smaller bobcat, biologists say it happens all the time.

Claims of mountain lion sightings are so persistent in Connecticut and other East Coast states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year launched a formal review of the status of the mountain lion. Biologist Mark McCollough supervised the investigation from his office in Old Town, Maine. The report, which has just been completed in draft form, confirms what scientists have been saying for years.

"We wanted to know if there is a population that has escaped detection," McCollough said. "The answer from the scientific data is no in 21 eastern states studied. There is no evidence of a breeding population, but there is some interesting data about populations spreading eastward from the Midwest as far as Chicago, Ill."

A few sightings — fewer than 5 percent — are attributed to big cats released from captivity with enough instinct to thrive. At least 1,000 western and southern cousins of the eastern mountain lion are held in captivity or kept as pets on the East Coast, McCollough said.

"Scat (feces) found in 1997 and a skull found in 2002 at the Quabbin Reservoir in Berkshire County, Mass. were traced to a mountain lion, but its teeth showed evidence of gnawing on a cage as if it had been captive at one point. It had been shot," McCollough said.

Sightings reported throughout the region have lately been near the Massachusetts line.

In the Massachusetts town of Monterey, just north of Canaan, Georgiana O'Connell reported seeing a big cat in the middle of the road a couple weeks ago, around the same time a logger, Bill Riiska, said he saw one cross the road in Otis, north of Winsted.

"None of the sightings have been confirmed," Massachusetts Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Lisa Capone said.

In Simsbury, landscaper Bo Ottmann founded Cougars of the Valley, a loosely affiliated group with a dozen members which formed last year to document mountain lions and protect them. Ottmann has collected more than 100 sightings so far — 90 percent of them from Litchfield and Hartford counties. He claims all but a few are accurate.

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  1. I live in Colchester, Ct. and a few years back we had one sited on McDonald Rd. The state claimed there was non. A year later a hunter was on Rte 85 in the woods hunting and spotted the animal also. Poor thing is looking for a home. At one point a rumor was started that the state put them out to decrease the turkey population. But with out research proof, I can only call it a rumor.

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